James Flowers is challenging Richland Sheriff Leon Lott in the June 14 Democratic primary. No Republicans filed, so the primary victor is virtually assured of election. The State’s editorial board sent questionnaires to both candidates.
Born in 1953
Political party: Democrat
Position you are seeking: Richland County Sheriff
Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: 41
Family (name of spouse, number and ages of children if at home, number of grown children):
McKenzie 12; Amanda 40; Lara 38; Misty 36
Education: Associate – USC-Aiken; Bachelor – USC Columbia
Currently enrolled at Lander University for Masters in Emergency Management
Current occupation/employer: Sheriff, Richland County Sheriff’s Department
Employment, military and volunteer history:
1975 - 1992 Richland County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy – Captain
1993 - 1996 St. Matthews Police Department, Police Chief
1996 – Present Richland County Sheriff’s Department
2004 – Present South Carolina State Guard
Brigadier General-Deputy Commander
Boy Scouts of America – Indian Waters Council
Capital City Club Board of Directors
D.A.R.E. America Law Enforcement Advisory Board
Girl Scouts of South Carolina - Board of Directors
Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce
Katrina’s Kids – Advisory Committee
Law Enforcement Advisory Committee for the Center for
Advanced Technical Studies
National Federation of the Blind
Public Employee Benefit Authority - Board of Directors
School Safety Task Force
South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association Board
Spring Valley Rotary Club
There’s Room, Inc.
USC Dept. of Criminology & Criminal Justice – Advisory Board
Boyleston Masonic Lodge
Columbia York Rite
Columbia Scottish Rite
National Sojourners – Fort Jackson Post 184
Association of U.S. Army
Employer Support for Guard and Reserve – Board of Directors
Gateway to the Army Association
SC Combat Veterans Group
SC Military History Foundation Board, Inc. – Advisor
Sons of the American Legion
Special Forces Association
USO Advisory Council
Please list all public offices to which you’ve been elected, when and where: Richland County Sheriff, Columbia, SC 1996 to Present
Please list year and office of any unsuccessful runs for public office: N/A
Other political and government experience: N/A
Key endorsements you’ve received:
Governor Jim Hodges
Mayor Bob Coble
Senators Lourie, Scott, Jackson, Courson, McElveen, Patterson (Retired)
House Members Howard, Bernstein, McEachern, Neal, Bales, Finlay, Smith
Councilmen Howard Duvall, Ed McGowan
Dr. Lonnie Randolph
I.S. Leevy Johnson
Please limit your response to each of the following questions to about 100 words.
1. What makes you the most qualified person to hold this position? (Be specific.)
As the church hymn says “May the work I’ve done speak for me” describes my trusted leadership experience as Sheriff for the past 20 years and 41 years of law enforcement experience.
My career has been one of progressive leadership positions. Since 1983 I have been in management and leadership positions. The Sheriff’s Department is recognized currently as a leader locally, nationally, and internationally. Our successes have been built upon community involvement, transparency, and vision. Law enforcement is a constantly evolving profession and we have engaged all employees and the community in identifying trends, technology and programs that keeps RCSD on the cutting edge.
The past 20 years my reputation has been one of proven leadership, trusted leadership, and a Sheriff for all people.
2. What will be your top three priorities if you are elected? (100 words for each issue)
If re-elected my top three priorities will be to:
1.) Continue to strengthen and increase our Youth Services Diversionary Programs to continue to educate our youth and keep them from the criminal justice system.
2.) Continue to strengthen the bridges between RCSD and all the diverse communities that make up Richland County.
3.) Continue the excellent partnerships with our law enforcement partners in working together to identify and address community issues.
3b. For incumbents: What do you consider your most significant accomplishments in this office?
The most significant accomplishments over the past 20 years have been:
- Taking a department that was racially biased and creating one that works together with all the communities of Richland County.
- Establishing our own full service Forensic Lab that is internationally accredited. This lab is recognized as one of the best worldwide that solves all types of crimes. The State Lab does not do property crimes or any crime not classified as a violent major crime.
- Creating over 16 years ago a Citizens Advisory Council that is part of the Sheriff’s Department. This Council has full access to all aspects of the Sheriff’s Department. They review citizens’ complaints, officer involved shootings, and policy and procedures. Council members also sit on the hiring board that selects deputies. This was the first in the State and remains the only one in the State that gives citizens full access and influence over the Sheriff’s Department.
- Other accomplishments include the Community Action Team, School Resource Officer Program, Youth Services Division, and Helping Our Precious Elderly Program.
4. Describe at least one significant political position you hold that would clash with your political base.
I’ve made decisions based on the law and what is right and wrong and not political decisions. Politics has no place in law enforcement except I’m a cop that has to be elected to the position. My base is all citizens of Richland County and not one political party.
5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime, been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics complaint filed against you? If so, please give the details.
6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy or been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
7. Are there any personal details about you that voters would be interested in knowing?
I played college baseball and still remain very active in athletics. I coached Columbia High School girls’ softball team for two years and in addition to being a cop, my second professional career love is as a coach for young people.