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On thin ice: Touted storm brings coastal living to a standstill

By By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The governor’s office is vetting a candidate to replace Magistrate Alan Walters when he steps down at the end of the month to become the director of safety and risk management for the Georgetown County School District.

The nominee of the county’s two state senators won’t be made public until the name is presented to the Senate for a vote, Sen. Ray Cleary said.

Walters is the magistrate for Central Traffic Court. He is also the Municipal Court judge for the town of Pawleys Island. He was appointed to the magistrate’s court in 2002 after 17 years in law enforcement with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and Georgetown City Police.

“I’m not unhappy with what I do,” Walters said. “This is something I can help with.”

During his time as a magistrate he has taught seminars on court security for the National Judicial College, based at the University of Nevada in Reno. “There aren’t many judges with law enforcement experience,” Walters said.

The last vacancy in the county’s magistrate courts became controversial when Cleary nominated an Horry County Police officer, Dave Jollif, as magistrate for Murrells Inlet in 2011. Some residents opposed the nomination because Jollif had only recently moved to the area and documents released by the

Horry County Police Department raised questions about his conduct. Jollif withdrew.

“About a year later, the three main people from Horry County Police Department [who criticized Jollif] were gone,” Cleary said. “The woman who was their supervisor said all those stories were lies, but nobody could say anything about it.”

Cleary said he was reluctant to discuss who he and Sen. Yancey McGill nominated for the new vacancy, although it is a person interviewed for the Murrells Inlet post. Jollif “lost his house. He lost his job,” Cleary said. “It bothers me even now.”

The vote to hire Walters brought a rare dissent from School Board Member Arthur Lance. “There’s no way I can sit up here and support that person as a candidate for that position,” he said. “I can’t find it in my heart. I’ve looked and looked.”

Lance was among the people who interviewed candidates for the position. He didn’t state any specific objections before the vote and did not return a phone call seeking clarification.

But Lance told the board he believes the added responsibilities to the risk manager’s position were “cloudy.” “There are questions going forward,” he said. “Will I be looking to see if this $100,000 job is worth it? Surely. Surely.”

The starting salary is actually $72,600, Superintendent Randy Dozier said afterward. Although the 8-1 vote to hire Walters was unusual, Dozier recalled that he was initially hired by the district as deputy superintendent in a 7-2 vote.

The risk manager position almost pays for itself through discounts earned for the district’s workers compensation premiums, Dozier said. Those were between $60,000 and $70,000 last year, he said.

The position was expanded to include oversight of the district’s safety programs, which grew in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December 2012. The district now has resource officers at all schools. Additional staff watch school grounds. “We’re bumping a million dollars,” Dozier said.

The district will also spend up to $1.2 million to make school entrances more resistant to would-be attackers.

“When you look at the money that’s being spent, you need somebody,” Walters said. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Although he will step down as a magistrate, he is seeking a legal opinion about his ability to continue as Pawleys Island’s judge. He doesn’t believe there will be a conflict because none of the town police officers serve as school resource officers.

There is one other person in the risk management office. Dozier believes another is needed because of the range of security measures the district has adopted. All the schools and all the district buses have security cameras. Metal detectors are used at sporting events. There are fire drills, tornado drills and lock-down drills to perform.

Along with workplace safety, Walters will also deal with compliance issues for handling hazardous materials. “He doesn’t know that yet,” Dozier said. And when there is an emergency, such as last week’s ice storm or an impending hurricane, Walters will also be involved.

Dozier said the threat of violence is the top concern. “It keeps me up at night,” he said. “If you don’t feel safe and secure, you really can’t teach.”

Walters said one his priorities is getting feedback from district staff and parents about security issues. “Perception is the most important part of safety,” he said.

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