Candidates for Kershaw County Sheriff discuss offering free funeral escorts again

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - While Anthony Bell is the lone Democratic nominee for Kershaw County Sheriff, four Republican candidates will go head-to-head in next week's primary.

Candidates say while the current sheriff, Jim Matthews, has a great reputation after two terms, there is one policy that isn't sitting so well with voters - funeral escorts. It's a service that used to be provided by the Sheriff's Office for free, but now residents are being charged for it.

Each Republican candidate hoping to be Kershaw County's next sheriff is now responding to those concerns.

"That was like the first question people asked when the campaign first started," said candidate, Lee Boan. He currently works as the Captain of Operations for the Camden Police Department with 25 years of law enforcement experience.

Boan tells WIS several voters have been asking him will funeral escorts, once again, be provided to the residents of Kershaw County for free.

After current sheriff, Jim Matthews, announced he would not be seeking re-election, those hoping to be his successor say they started getting the same request.

"Funeral escorts was a big issue. That taxpayer that's passed away has paid taxes their whole life and the final chance we get to provide this service to them, we're going to charge them. I don't agree with that," Boan said.

Most of the candidates say they agree it's time for a change.

"The first day I'm in office, and this is a promise I've been making to the people and I don't make empty promises, but we will resume the funeral escorts at no cost to the families," said candidate Eric Tisdale.

Tisdale has more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement, including with the solicitor's office.

Touting more than 30 years of experience in public safety, Donald Branham also plans to change the policy.

"They believe that that's what Kershaw County Sheriff's Office does. That's a service that we provide at no cost and we've done it here for years and years and years," Branham said. "So, I will bring that back immediately."

Not all of the candidates, however, are making the promise to remove the cost of the funeral escorts.

Jack Rushing, who currently works for the Sheriff's Office, says it is not realistic.

"Let me just tell you something, nothing in life is free. From being inside the sheriff's office, studying these budgets, dealing with these budgets hands-on with the sheriff – I can tell you that the best way to perform this service is with off-duty deputies, paying those deputies – straight to them," Rushing said.

Some of the candidates did mention that there are other critical issues to be addressed in this race but also say this is a matter of listening to the people and giving the taxpayers what they want.

The candidates also commented on the issue of deputies patrolling more of the county rather than the interstate. It is another regular concern they say they're hearing from the voters.

"I want to increase the patrol shift sizes. I think we need more deputies on the ground, working the roads, and I plan on doing this by reorganizing the existing manpower there, not asking for tax money," Boan said.

"What I want to do is, with our resident deputies, look at a map and assign them to a specific area of the county with the six guys that we have. Put them in those areas, and they'll work those areas Monday through Friday. They'll be their deputy that they can go to," Tisdale said.

"That's where most of the bulk of our fatalities are and that's where the effort will be put – into the county not on the interstate," Branham said.

Rushing, on the other hand, is confident this is not an issue within the department.

"You'll see a pretty good coverage from rural roads to, also, the interstate. Personally, if you aren't speeding, why do you have a problem with the traffic unit?" Rushing said.

Several candidates say the issue is more so centered around having more deputies nearby for faster response times when people living in rural communities are in an emergency.

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