Originally created 01/04/03

Deputy steps up to run



Chief Deputy Jody Rowland will form a steering committee to help guide his campaign for sheriff.

AIKEN - On the coattails of Aiken County Sheriff Howard Sellers' retirement announcement Friday, Chief Deputy Jody Rowland announced he would be offering himself for the job in a special election to fill the vacancy.

As the man who has overseen daily operations of the department since 1994, the chief deputy has been closely tied to the successes and failures of the sheriff's three terms.

The two men met in 1992, the year of the sheriff's first election victory.

Chief Deputy Rowland was working at the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office at the time. The next year, he returned to Aiken County to become head of the Criminal Investigations Division.

Now 42, the chief deputy shares credit for the administration's strides in drug enforcement and increased resident service, noting the department has been able to successfully respond to twice the number of calls in the past year as compared with 1993.

But the department has taken its share of criticism. The most recent concerns came after the Dec. 4 death of a woman on West Martintown Road.

About 15 minutes elapsed between the 911 call reporting the woman's collapse and the dispatch of an ambulance.

Sheriff Howard Sellers said Friday that "appropriate administrative action" was taken with the dispatcher and that the person remains with the department. He added that enhancements have been made to the dispatchers' computers to help them multitask, and protocol has been reviewed to prevent human error.

As the sheriff and chief deputy work to put the problem behind them, the issue of response times is expected to come up again at the county's Jan. 13 Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting.

Meanwhile, the chief deputy will begin planning for competition in the April primary. Lt. Mike Hunt, 41, of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, said he would make a formal announcement next week, but he confirmed he would be running as well.

With the police department since 1985, Lt. Hunt had been working on a 2004 sheriff's campaign since June.

Another possible candidate is Martin Posey, the tax collector for Aiken County. The 57-year-old ran a close race as a Democrat against Sheriff Sellers in 2000.

He said Friday he wasn't sure yet whether he would run again, especially given the sudden time frame, but he didn't rule it out. He also didn't rule out running as a Republican.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.