A 26-year law enforcement veteran is now Union County’s Clerk of Court.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced this morning he was appointing Capt. Freddie Gault of the Union Public Safety Department to the office left vacant earlier this month by the resignation of Brad Morris.
Morris’ resignation was the latest in a series of scandals engulfing the county and shaking public confience in local government over the past year.
It was to help restore that confidence Sanford said led him to appoint Gault as clerk of court.
Speaking from the steps of the Union County Courthouse, Sanford explained why he appointed Gault rather than someone from within the office.
“He is somebody who is of the community but not part of the office,” the governor said. “There are many talented people in the office and under normal circumstances I would have appointed from within, but given the circumstances and what’s happened over the last couple of years it was best to bring in someone from outside the office.”
Sanford said he’d stopped at the Palmetto Restaurant and spoke with people there and they’d told him that what they wanted in the office was someone who would “shoot straight.” He said Gault is not only someone who will “shoot straight” but is also an experienced administrator.
Another factor in Sanford’s decision is Gault’s experience in law enforcement. Gault has been in law enforcement for nearly 27 years, working as a patrolman, an investigator and an administrator. As a captain with the public safety department, Gault oversaw four investigators and three School Resource Officers.
“He’ll bring a different perspective and will ask the ‘why’ questions,” Sanford said. “This will help restore trust in local government because law enforcement personnel are used to looking closely at things and being looked at closely.”
Gault, who retired from the public safety department this morning, was sworn in as clerk of court shortly after the press conference. He said he hopes to use his new position to help move the community forward in the healing process.
“Last week we had a prayer rally on these steps and people of all faiths came together to pray for healing,” Gault said. “I want to use my position to help the clerk of court’s office and the community move forward with the healing. We’ve got a real good county and a lot of real good people here. I would like to ask the community for their support and prayers as we go forward.”
As clerk of court, Gault said he plans to carry out his duties as he carried them out at the public safety department by working closely with the people in the office.
“I want to sit down and talk with each of the employees and work with them as a group,” Gault said. “I did that with my guys at the public safety department — we worked together.”
Gault spent much of the rest of the morning following the press conference meeting with the staff of the clerk of court’s office in small groups. He said he just wanted to touch base with them and then allow them to continue performing their duties.
Gault also met with Probate Judge Donna Cudd who has been serving as acting clerk of court since Morris’ resignation. He said he and Cudd will get together either late today or Thursday to discuss the office and its operations.
Prior to announcing Gault’s appointment, Sanford praised Mrs. Cudd for her hard work in keeping the office running
Gault was selected from among 44 persons who submitted resumes to the governor’s office for either clerk of court or supervisor.
Union County residents were encouraged by the Union County Legislative Delegation to submit resumes for the positiions. The delegation’s role in the process didn’t end there, however, as they assisted the governor in making his selection.
Delegation chairman State Rep. Mike Anthony said the delegation contacted the governor and asked to be allowed to help him narrow down his choices. Anthony said the delegation narrowed them down to four for clerk of court and four for supervisor — Gault was one of the four the delegation recommended for clerk of court.
Anthony and the other delegates told the governor if he selected any of the persons they recommended they would support the appointee as a delegation.
Gault’s appointment was well-received by members of Union County Council.
Council member Kacie Petrie said as a council they supported the governor’s decision.
“I’m proud for him and I’m sure he’ll do a good job,” said council member Joan Little.
Morris resigned in the midst of a SLED investigation into his handling of the child support fund.
Gault’s appointment makes him the first Republican to hold county office since Reconstruction. He previously ran for sheriff in 2004 as a Democrat and in 2008 as a Republican.
The clerk of court’s office will be up for re-election in 2012.
Sanford said he is still in the process of deciding who he will appoint as Union County’s next supervisor.
The office of supervisor has been vacant since Sanford suspended Donnie Betenbaugh following Betenbaugh’s indictment 40 counts of federal corruption and drug charges. Union County Council vice chairman Dora Martin has been serving as acting supervisor since then.
During Wednesday's press conference, Sanford was asked when he might be announcing the new supervisor. He said he’d hoped to do it at the same time he announced the clerk of court but that his office has not been able to reach a consensus on the appointee.
“In a perfect world it would be within the next week,” Sanford said. “In the imperfect world we live in it may be much later. I’d like to make it sooner than later though because it is important to the healing process.”
A total of 44 resumes have been submitted to the governor’s office from Union County residents interested in serving as either clerk of court or supervisor.
The Union County Legislative Delegation has been assisting the governor in the selection process by reviewing the submissions and recommending four persons for each position.
The delegation has promised that if Sanford chooses one of its four recommendations it will support that appointee as a delegation.