Originally created 02/25/03

Sheriff candidates air differences

AIKEN - The differences between the two Republican candidates for Aiken County sheriff became clearer Monday as they addressed a political group.

Interim Sheriff Jody Rowland and Lt. Michael Hunt, of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, answered questions from the Aiken Republican Club at a luncheon at Newberry Hall. Both men want to replace former Sheriff Howard Sellers, who resigned last month to take a job in the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Lt. Hunt tried to convince the audience of about 100 that recent changes made by interim Sheriff Rowland - the former chief deputy named to replace Sheriff Sellers until a new election - were good only in theory. Sheriff Rowland has reorganized patrol shifts and patrol zones to keep more deputies on the road and in rural areas.

Sheriff Rowland said those changes put, at most, 13 deputies on the road at one time. In the past, eight was the maximum.

"On paper it shows 13 people, but on paper it doesn't help response times," Lt. Hunt said.

Sheriff Rowland respondedthat his opponent doesn't understand the inner workings of the sheriff's office nor how the changes are working.

Lt. Hunt also has campaigned on more public accessibility for the office, both for himself as sheriff and deputies.

Sheriff Rowland said accessibility was not a major issue in the campaign, especially since he implemented changes that altered policies of his predecessor.

"Accessibility is not an issue because he resigned. He left and moved to Alabama," Sheriff Rowland said, referring to his predecessor's new federal post.

Sheriff Sellers resigned Jan. 31 in the middle of his third term.

While Sheriff Rowland tried to distance himself from his predecessor, he touted the accomplishments of the sheriff's office during his tenure as chief deputy. It received state accreditation in 2000 and is in the process of attaining national accreditation.

"Continuity of the sheriff's office is at stake," Sheriff Rowland said.

The victor in the March 25 primary faces the Democratic winner in the race between public safety Lt. Donald Butler and former sheriff's Deputy Neil Britt.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: The Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce will hold a sheriff candidates forum at 7 p.m. March 11 at Bobby's Bar-B-Q on U.S. Highway 1 in Warrenville.


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