Howard Sellers, with his wife, Marilyn Sellers, (center), admires the sword Capt. Bobby Wilson (right) presented him as a going-away present.
AIKEN - The cake's icing read, "Thank you for ten years of dedication and service."
Employees, friends and family gathered Friday afternoon to thank and give well-wishes to Sheriff Howard Sellers in his next-to-last week in office. He retires Friday.
The "surprise" drop-in celebration was held in the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, but it was not very surprising for the sheriff.
"They had to make sure that I would be here," he said, laughing.
Even though the secret was blown, Sheriff Sellers said the emotional significance wasn't lost on him.
"The fact that all these people were here, with the refreshments, the decorations and the really nice gifts, it makes it all the more special that they would come and express all of this to me," he said.
The sheriff began his first term in 1992. He is leaving midway through his third to take a role in federal homeland security.
State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley, was at the party and, like all who were there, said Sheriff Sellers' professionalism would be missed.
"Whoever fills Howard's shoes will have big shoes to fill - literally and professionally," he said with a grin.
Several employees said they too will hate to see him go.
Sheriff's Investigator Clay Adams said, "When he walks into a room, he's got this aura around him that makes you stop.
"He cares about each one of his employees. He has such a caring personality."
Lt. Robert Bosserman, who has been an employee of the sheriff since 1994, said, "This place has been home to me since I've been here. Much of that is because of the leadership he's given to us."
Well-wishers from other enforcement agencies also were in attendance.
"He's brought a lot of professionalism to the department with his honesty and the way he's so open with the community and his officers," said Lt. Steve Lark, a friend of the sheriff who works in the special operations division of Wackenhut Security. Wackenhut, the sheriff's former employer, provides security at Savannah River Site.
In thanking the crowd, the sheriff shared credit for the progress his department has made over the past decade.
"To the people of Aiken County, thank you for the opportunity to turn this into a professional law enforcement agency," Sheriff Sellers said. "I love and respect the people of this agency and the people of this county. I'll stay in touch."
"To the people of Aiken County, thank you for the opportunity to turn this into a professional law enforcement agency." - Sheriff Howard Sellers, at his going-away party
Reach Sara Bancroft at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.