Several hundred people filled the Kershaw County Courthouse’s main courtroom to watch as Sheriff Lee Boan took the oath of office during a public ceremony held Wednesday evening. Boan had officially been sworn in Monday morning at the courthouse so that he could begin working as sheriff that day. In both cases, Judge G. Thomas Cooper administered the oath of office.
Those in attendance included former Kershaw County Sheriff Steve McCaskill, Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd -- both for whom Boan worked -- Boan’s command staff, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) deputies, and other members of law enforcement from Kershaw and surrounding counties.
Chaplain K.J. Lewis gave the opening prayer and also served as Wednesday evening’s master of ceremonies. Lewis noted that the first full day of business on Wednesday began with a prayer service at KCSO headquarters in Lugoff and reminded the audience that sheriffs, deputies, police chiefs and officers were once called “peace officers” during the early formation of the American west.
“We made it!” Boan’s wife, Jennifer, declared as she took the podium after Lewis introduced her.
She said her husband asked her two days earlier if she would speak at the ceremony.
“I said, ‘Well, what do you want me to say? It’s a swearing-in. Should I swear?’” she said, eliciting a burst of laughter from the audience.
Ultimately, though, Jennifer Boan said they settled on a theme of family.
“We’re in a room of people who know family. The law enforcement community is its own family, and its something that people outside (of it) will never, ever begin to understand,” she said.
She then went on to reminisce about when her husband came to her in August 2017 with the idea of running for sheriff.
“This is how long we’ve been having this much fun,” Jennifer Boan said. “I said, ‘Hey, go for it!’ About six months later, I said, ‘Uhhhhhh.’ I thought every hair on my head was going to go gray.”
But, she said, they both gained a lot of family. She said she meant a definition of family that goes beyond blood ties to include supporters, both in and out of the campaign itself as well as within the KCSO, Camden Police Department (CPD) and other law enforcement agencies.
Jennifer Boan came back to their actual family, most especially her mother-in-law, Debra Boan.
“We all know your mother runs the show. So, Debra, Lee’s mother, who’s sitting up here on the front row … she’s invaluable -- she’s been at everything, she’s made everything special, everyone she talks to she makes feel special, and she doesn’t get the credit she deserves,” she said, to a round of applause.
She went on to note that “so many people” helped support her husband’s campaign, from the June primary and runoff to Election Day 2018, which she said turned into a “wonderful time” to celebrate and socialize.
“So, you have prayed for our family and given us more than we could ever ask for,” Jennifer Boan said. “We hope that the citizens of Kershaw County remember that we are all family here and I know that Lee and his entire staff will do their very best to take care of this family.”
She ended with a quote from South African Bishop Desmond Tutu: “You don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you and you are to them.”
Next, Lewis introduced who he said was a surprise guest -- David Gayle, a friend of Boan’s who highlighted the new sheriff’s military experience.
“I imagine there’s not one single person in this room that would doubt the law enforcement qualifications of Sheriff Lee Boan,” Gayle began, explaining that he wanted to highlight Boan’s experiences in the military that “got him to this level other than perseverance and many other things.”
Those experiences, Gayle said, included “exceptionally meritorious service” in the U.S. Army, S.C. Army National Guard and S.C. Air National Guard, including several deployments under Operation Enduring Freedom, before becoming a military police officer and then an engineering officer. In 2007 and 2008, he deployed to Afghanistan in connection with Enduring Freedom where, Gayle said, Boan served with “exceptional gallantry and a commitment to professionalism” while working with the Afghan National Army.
Gayle said that Boan, as a South Carolina guardsman -- while also working as a law enforcement officer -- responded to “one of the worst floods in South Carolina,” a result of Hurricane Joaquim in October 2015.
“His technical expertise, calm demeanor -- anybody who knows the man, calm demeanor -- and leadership skills allowed him to spearhead the development of flood response plans that were vital in saving lives and property,” Gayle said, who said he was proud to call Boan a friend and sheriff of Kershaw County.
Former Sheriff McCaskill got a big laugh out of the audience when he started his remarks.
“Well, it really hits you that you’re a member of the ‘Over the Hill Gang’ as you walk in and see that the sheriff and his entire command staff are people you hired out of the academy,” McCaskill joked.
He said Boan worked hard “because that’s what we did,” and asked him to appear Wednesday to give him some advice. McCaskill did so, passing on words of wisdom from his father:
“Whatever you do, be truthful and be honest and if you can’t do that, then just stay working at the Piggly Wiggly,” McCaskill said, who went on to note that he and former Camden City Councilman Vernon Hammond had fathers who worked for the Camden Fire Department. “They were tough men, they were honest men, they were honorable men. They took care of this county and never counted the cost to their health and that’s what made them, in my eyes, such great men.”
He said that same type of integrity is what Boan is bringing to the table as Kershaw County’s new sheriff.
“He’s one of the home boys, he’s one of the good old boys. He’s one of the good guys here in Kershaw County, and he’s going to take care of people here. And, Lee, I challenge you to do just that -- take care of these people, take care of your men, but always remember: You are setting the tone. If you lose your truthfulness or your honesty, it’s gone, you don’t get but one chance at it. If it hurts to tell the truth, if it hurts to be honest, then let it hurt, because there’s no other way…. Don’t be afraid to go out and do your job,” McCaskill told Boan, looking at him, and then challenged everyone in the courtroom Wednesday evening to pray every day for Boan and his deputies.
Floyd, who spoke next, started by thanking McCaskill for inviting him to have pork chops at a local establishment on -- as many in the audience intoned -- a Thursday when he first arrived in Camden 20 years ago.
“I want to talk today a little bit about, obviously, Lee Boan, but also about some other things,” Floyd said. “One is the word proud. I think we have a lot to be proud of. It’s so often that we don’t talk about things that we’re proud of, but I think today’s a day to talk about things we’re proud of and who should be proud and why they should be proud.”
He went on to say that as he looked around the room he saw people, women included, who he called “good men.”
“We have so many ‘good men’ in this profession, and Lee is one of those people. He qualifies, but we have so many others who also qualify. But how do you get there? How do you become that?” Floyd said and then had Boan’s mother, Debra, stand for a second time. “Lee Boan has become a good police officer because of so many different influences and so many efforts. Let me tell you what he is other than sheriff, because I said the word proud earlier. There’s a lot of people who need to be proud of him of being sheriff, but this is the lady and (her late husband) Frank, who’s not here today, is the main one that made him a good man. You should be proud of him, not because he’s sheriff, but because he’s a good man.”
Finally, it was time for Boan to be sworn in. Lewis called over Judge Cooper who, before administering the oath of office joked that it was “probably a good time to rob a bank” with all the law enforcement at he courthouse. Cooper also said that, as a routine matter, he had to look up Boan’s criminal record.
“The clerk of court (Janet Hasty) over there advised me that all of his criminal record has been expunged, so I think he qualifies for what we’re about to do,” Cooper said, before asking Boan to raise his right hand and place his left hand on a large family Bible held by his wife.
Afterward, Boan acknowledged other law enforcement leaders in attendance, including his fellow “rookie,” new Chesterfield County Sheriff James “J.D.” Dixon, as well as elected and appointed officials. Kershaw County’s new sheriff then went on to thank voters for electing him.
“Citizens here let me know how important this was by coming out and voting,” Boan said. “In Kershaw County, we had some of the highest numbers in the state who came out and voted. This is what I think is so interesting: more people in Kershaw County voted in the sheriff’s race than any other race on the ballot, to include the governor’s race. That means a lot. It means the citizens of Kershaw County think a lot about this position and that it’s worth coming out and voting for.”
As he did throughout the campaign and after winning the election, Boan said voters had good choices on the ballot and that any of his fellow candidates would have made a good sheriff, calling it a “no-lose situation.”
“You selected me out of that group -- I’m truly honored. It really means a lot. If you don’t remember anything else I say tonight, please remember what I’m about to say: I know that the support of Kershaw County citizens is what got me here today, and I know that without the continued support of the citizens, I will not be successful doing this job,” Boan said.
The new sheriff went on to thank his wife and his mother (having her stand for yet a third time), his father, and the rest of his family, as well as campaign supporters. He also acknowledged his first shift supervisor, Glenn Martin, who passed away just before Boan announced his run in 2017; McCaskill, who gave him his first chance to serve Kershaw County; Floyd, for whom he worked a total of 17 years; members of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, with whom he worked for a short time; and God.
“I’m not perfect, I’m definitely not perfect. I will make mistakes. I thought I’d throw that out up front. There’s only one perfect person who’s walked the face of this Earth and he’s never run for sheriff in Kershaw County,” Boan said. “My deputies will not be perfect, but -- everybody, show of hands -- who is perfect? We have challenges we need to be working through.”
Those challenges, he said, include establishing a better connection with the community, having community-oriented policies, communicating with Kershaw County citizens about law enforcement, accountability, illegal drugs (to which he restated and earlier commitment to form a county drug task force), teamwork with other law enforcement agencies and community organizations, and recruitment and retention.
“Everybody knows that when a law enforcement officer goes to work each day, they’re always going to wonder if they’re going to make it home at the end of their shift or whether they’re going to be killed in the line of duty,” Boan said, noting that deputies “are not paid a whole lot.” “These days, you also have to be worried about being indicted for split-second bad decisions…. These guys, I appreciate them and I know you appreciate them, but, please, help me appreciate these guys as much as you can. Always let them know how much you care about them.”
Having them stand and calling his deputies -- indeed, all law enforcement officers -- “nothing more than good citizens with a badge,” Boan said having those badges does not make them better or worse than anybody else.
“As law enforcement officers, we have the authority to take someone’s freedom and even take someone’s life, but we never have the right to take their dignity,” he said.
With that, Boan concluded by reading -- twice -- his mission statement for the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office:
“It is the mission of the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office to partner with our community to provide quality public safety and public service to all citizens and visitors of Kershaw County. We’re dedicated to conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the trust that has been placed upon us.”