Sheriff Tim Baxley takes oath

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Sheriff Tim Baxley said his lifelong dream was fulfilled Tuesday when he was officially sworn in as the top law enforcement officer in Clarendon County.

Baxley, 53, a retired captain with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, has a total of 33 years of law enforcement experience.

He defeated incumbent Sheriff Randy Garrett in the June 14 Democratic primary, and since there was no Republican opposition for the seat, he became sheriff-elect that same month, although a write-in candidacy was still an option.

"This is probably the high point of my career," Baxley said. "It's an honor to have the opportunity to work for the citizens of our county."

Baxley retired from DNR in January as captain of staff operations, managing about 50 employees. His duties included overseeing the emergency management division, homeland security, a telecommunication center, aviation section and law enforcement procurement.

Baxley came to Clarendon County in 1985 after being assigned to the area as a trooper with the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

While working for highway patrol, Baxley was assigned to the Governor's Retaliation Against Illegal Drugs Team of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Narcotics Division.

He joined DNR in the early 1990s as a field officer. He rose up the ranks to lieutenant, in which he had 12 counties under his command. He retired as a captain and had the entire state under his command in the above previously mentioned divisions.

Baxley also served for 20 years on DNR's dive team, which conducts recovery efforts in reservoirs across the state.

Baxley was born in Charleston and raised in Barnwell. He is a graduate of Barnwell High School and attended courses at University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie.

He described himself as a people person and a Christian, and that faith is an important part of his life.

He said two of the major crimes he would like to focus on include drug and property crimes, and he said that the two are interrelated.

"Most of the property crimes occurring here are drug related," he said. "We need to combat both."

Baxley said he will be tough on traffic violations and even tougher on drunken driving.

"We want to make our county and its residents as safe as they possibly could be," he said.

He also would like to increase patrols throughout the county, especially in more rural areas.

Baxley said that besides the Community Action Team, he is planning on keeping all of the special teams created under Garrett.

He said he would like to see all of his deputies become "community-action officers," instead of having a designated team.

"This means I would like the presence of each of the deputies known in the neighborhood they are patrolling and for them to stop by and say 'hello' when they see a barbecue, for example, in that neighborhood," he said. "This builds an important level of trust between the deputies and the citizens."

Baxley praised Garrett on the success of the Interstate Community Enforcement (ICE) team and the K-9 tracking team.

The ICE team has made dozens of drug busts, seizures of weapons and cash on Interstate 95. The team has also made dozens of arrests involving identity and credit card theft, and seizures of fake credit cards and credit card making machines.

In April, the team confiscated the largest amount of cash in the department's history, discovering more than $813,000 in the trunk of a vehicle during a traffic stop on I-95.

Most importantly, Baxley said, he wants citizens to know that he will be personally aware of each case being investigated.

"They will receive either a phone call or a letter from me," he said.

He also said the sheriff's office is looking to hire four patrol deputies. So far Baxley said he's received at least 30 applications.