(Another member of our community received an appointment this week while I was away. As the Governor said at her press conference: “There’s a new Chief in town!”)
From The State:
Mark Keel lost out three years ago on the job he worked a career to achieve, but got a welcome back to SLED on Wednesday from Gov. Nikki Haley.
And Haley said she’ll likely select Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster as interim director of the Department of Public Safety, which Keel is credited with reforming during his time away from the State Law Enforcement Division. The patrol is the largest division of the public safety agency.
Keel, 53, is widely viewed as having resurrected the faltering Highway Patrol. When he took over in 2008, troopers were under state and federal investigation for civil rights violations, racial slurs and other wrongdoing. The patrol also labored for years under constant turnover at the top and complaints that connections were more important than job performance in promotions.
Keel’s nomination to finish the remaining 7½ months of the SLED chief’s six-year term will go to the Senate quickly, the governor said during a news conference to announce her selection. Current SLED director Reggie Lloyd, nominated by then-Gov. Mark Sanford, in March announced he would leave early, then later said he would be gone July 1. In January 2008, Lloyd became the first person outside of SLED’s ranks to lead the agency and its first African-American boss.
“You can look into the eyes of Mark Keel and see there is a passion for SLED,” Haley told a crowd of law enforcement officers from state and local agencies as well as Keel’s family and friends.
“Welcome home,” someone in the crowd shouted as Haley spoke outside her State House office.
Wednesday, Keel pledged to return SLED to its core mission of assisting local police agencies who lack the state investigative agency’s expertise and equipment. Lloyd had steered the agency toward more statewide issues: combating violent crime, illegal drugs and gangs.
“I’m committed to the sheriffs and chiefs … to the entire law enforcement community,” Keels said. “I’m going to work with you. I’m going to be available to you. … I’ll be available to everyone … 24/7, 365.”
Keel spent 29 years at SLED, rising to second in command under then-Chief Robert Stewart, who was the second chief in the agency’s now 62-year history. “This has been a goal since Day 1, to follow in the footsteps of J.P. Strom and Robert Stewart,” Keel said, choking back emotion.