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The Top 10, No. 2: Voters oust sheriff

Sheriff Charlie McDonald and challenger Lowell Griffin repeat the Pledge of Allegiance before a candidate forum in April. Sheriff Charlie McDonald and challenger Lowell Griffin repeat the Pledge of Allegiance before a candidate forum in April.

Charlie McDonald, initially reluctant to fill the job as sheriff, parlayed his 2012 appointment to the job into a strong campaign to win the job via election two years later.

He ran as a reformer and put in policies and practices that he said modernized the department and purged cronyism. Although his tenure had been free of scandal, county residents broadly panned his proposal for an elaborate training center and shooting range, the cost of which had ballooned to $24 million. Days before one-stop voting opened for the May 8 primary, Saluda residents rose up to fight the last proposed gun range site, on Macedonia Road. When the polls closed, eight out of 10 voters in the Raven Rock precinct had cast their ballots for Lowell Griffin. Ridge Republicans also threw their support behind Griffin, an Edneyville native whom McDonald had sacked days after the 2014 election. Griffin won the Edneyville box with an astounding 78 percent of the vote and trounced the incumbent in three other apple country precincts by 40 points. “I leave the ship in far better shape than when I first came aboard,” McDonald said as he left office in December. “My administration forged a path separate from the ‘good ole boy’ system and restored the public trust in the time honored and esteemed Office of the Sheriff. We have proven that agency success is guaranteed when leadership sets and holds the highest reasonable standards of ethics, morality, compassion and justice.” Griffin, who eschewed wholesale changes to the rank and file and kept most of the command staff, installed a new district scheme for patrolling and promised to make good on outfitting deputies with body cams. “I do think that the body cameras are extremely important,” said the new sheriff, who had been working as a captain in the Polk County sheriff’s office. “All the interactions I’ve had with body cameras in the past have been positive.”