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Matthews receives Thurmond excellence award

Posted: December 12, 2013 3:45 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Sheriff Jim Matthew became the first Kershaw County law enforcement officer to receive the Strom Thurmond Excellence in Law Enforcement Award. Matthews received the 2013 Thurmond award during a luncheon Tuesday at Fort Jackson. There are four Thurmond excellence awards, one each for municipal, county, state and federal law officers. Matthews received the county-level award.

A committee made up of Thurmond’s son, Strom Thurmond Jr., as well as top current and former federal, state and local law enforcement officials and attorneys from around South Carolina voted on nominations.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, a former Thurmond excellence award winner, nominated Matthews for the award.

“(Matthews) has been a catalyst for improving the quality of life in Kershaw County by his selfless devotion to the professionalism of the department and his commitment to his citizens,” Lott said.

Lott said that when Matthews took office, he made it his goal to be an advocate for his personnel.

“By creating new training opportunities and professional standards for his agency, and improving the equipment they need to do their jobs, Sheriff Matthews has laid the foundation for an efficient and effective law enforcement agency,” Lott said. “The accomplishments achieved by the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office have not only had a huge impact on the personnel … but also the citizens of Kershaw County -- they have come from Sheriff Matthews’ forward thinking and in his desire to work with all disciplines of civil service to protect our citizens.”

Kershaw County voters elected Matthews to the sheriff’s office in 2010; he took office in January 2011. Since doing so, he has reduced worker’s compensation claims by 37 percent and took Kershaw County from No. 1 in DUI-related accidents to being named as a “top agency for DUI enforcement,” according to biographical information provided at the luncheon. Matthews is a University of South Carolina graduate, with a degree in Criminal Justice. He has worked for Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Columbia Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Matthews said while a quarterback gets all the glory, he couldn’t win if he didn’t have a team.

“I have to get credit to the people I have surrounded myself with, who make me look good,” Matthew said. “I appreciate the work of my command staff and my deputies.”

Matthews also thanked God and his wife, Heather, who attended the luncheon.

Thurmond Jr. spoke at the event, as did U.S. District for South Carolina Chief Judge Terry Wooten. Wooten described Matthews as diligent, the type to “take three steps forward and never take a step back.”

The Strom Thurmond Excellence in Law Enforcement Award was created in 1983. This year’s awards commemorated 30 years of acknowledging the efforts of law enforcement agents in the state of South Carolina.  Sen. Strom Thurmond served in the U.S. Senate from 1963-2003. Wooten said the elder Thurmond was a hard worker and “had a way of making people feel comfortable.”

“What law enforcement does was significant to him,” Wooten said.

In addition to Matthews, this year’s winners included York Police Chief Charles Robinson (municipal), IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent Alan Cornett (federal), and S.C. Department of Natural Resources Director Alvin Taylor (state).

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