Lexington Sheriff Lewis McCarty is supporting assistant Lexington town police chief Jay Koon as the next top lawman in the steadily growing county.
“Jay has the ability, qualifications and leadership skills to step in from day one,” McCarty said Thursday at a Koon campaign event.
The endorsement makes official what had been an open secret in county politics.
Candidates have until noon Monday to file for the upcoming contest.
McCarty said he “wanted people to know right up front whom I support.”
Koon said he is ready to tackle the challenge of leading an agency that is coping with steady growth while rebuilding its public image.
“It’s going to take someone with experience and relationships,” he said. “I’m ready to do that.”
He was on loan from Town Hall for five months last year to serve as a top aide to McCarty.
McCarty came out of retirement to serve temporarily as former Sheriff James Metts was suspended while battling federal corruption charges.
Metts stepped down in mid-December shortly before pleading guilty to a charge related to his interference in the handling of a pair of illegal immigrants at the jail he supervised.
Koon is one of four candidates so far in the contest for sheriff that will be settled at a series of elections culminating in an April 21 ballot.
The others are Richland County deputy Justin Britt, former Columbia police officer Jim Crawford and West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall.
The new sheriff will serve through 2016 and could seek re-election then.