Nationally acclaimed sheriff sworn-in for sixth term

by W. THOMAS SMITH, JR. January 4, 2017

Sheriff Leon Lott was sworn-in for his sixth term as sheriff of the Richland County Sheriff's Dept. (RCSD), one of the largest law enforcement agencies in South Carolina, this week.

Sheriff Lott, who penned a public safety piece for FSM - and will be writing a regular column going forward - is widely held to be an expert in community bridge-building among law enforcement leaders, nationwide.

The ceremony held Tues. at Central Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. (the heart of Richland County) was attended by approximately 2,000 invited guests - including deputies and representatives from other law enforcement agencies, military officers, local business leaders, state legislators, and members of the community served by the RCSD.

Among the dignitaries were Dr. William H. Jones, president of Columbia International University (who delivered the oath of office); the Rev. Ricky Ray Ezell, Sr., senior pastor of Central Baptist Church (who led the initial prayer and delivered the benediction); and Coach Dawn Staley, three-time Olympian and head coach of the University of South Carolina Women's Basketball Team (ranked #5 in the AP women's basketball poll).

Sheriff Leon Lott _2017 WTS

[Pictured are L-R - Senior Deputy III Katelyn Jasak, Major Stephany Snowden, Sheriff Lott, and Sergeant Brittany Jackamonis]

RCSD officials agree that Lott's bridge-building and community relations over a 20-year-period as sheriff (he's been a law-enforcement officer since 1975) have been key to his success and overwhelming popularity as a public servant; all of which was demonstrated by the public response to the swearing-in ceremony.

"[The outpouring of support during] today's ceremony was a ‘God thing,' because of who the Sheriff is, and because of his heart," said MAJ Stephany Snowden, RCSD's director of community initiatives.

Among the Sheriff's greatest bridge-building efforts has been the Citizens Advisory Council, "created way before we knew how invaluable it would be today," said LT Curtis Wilson, RCSD public information officer. "It's because of [Sheriff Lott's] leadership that we didn't have to face riots or major protesting here in Richland County. His decision to get out in front of every major issue the department has faced showed the community that there's trust between the department and the community, and true transparency within the RCSD."

Speaking extemporaneously, Lott said that his "thank you" to the community for his 20 years as sheriff, so far, is with a hand over the heart - an expression of deepest sincerity he said - learned from tribal elders he met while in Iraq helping stand-up that country's security forces in 2010.

The RCSD currently employs over 700 uniformed officers and 140 non-sworn personnel.

For more information, visit

W. Thomas Smith Jr. - a former U.S. Marine rifleman - is a military analyst and partner with NATIONAL DEFENSE CONSULTANTS, LLC. Visit him at

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