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Magistrates: Facing retirement, judge’s days in new court will be few

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The former head of the county Highway Patrol office will become the magistrate in Georgetown County’s Central Traffic Court. Tony Love was nominated by state Sen. Ray Cleary. He was approved by the governor and the Senate, Cleary said.

Magistrate Dan Furr will retire at the end of June. Magistrate Steve Pop, who was nominated by Cleary last year, will replace Furr in the Pawleys Island Magistrate Court. Love will take over from Pop at the Central Traffic Court.

“I think it’s a plus when they start out in traffic court,” said Chief Magistrate Isaac Pyatt, who made the assignments.

Love retired this month from the Highway Patrol as sergeant in charge of the patrol office for Georgetown and Williamsburg counties. He joined the Highway Patrol after graduating from Mercer University in Georgia and served for 25 years.

Love, 49, grew up in Socastee, but spent his childhood as “an inlet rat,” fishing and boating in Murrells Inlet. He lives in Garden City, but is building a house in Murrells Inlet.

“He has a very good reputation,” Cleary said. Furr, who was appointed in 2007, has reached the mandatory retirement age of 72.

“If I could stay, I would,” Furr said. He opened the first session of court in a renovated facility at Litchfield Exchange where he shares space with John Benso, the magistrate for Murrells Inlet. “The county has really created something special over here,” Furr said. “It’s a modern, up-to-date court setting.”

He came to the court after serving as Georgetown City Police chief. Pop was an officer with the Department of Natural Resources. He was appointed after Alan Walters, another former law enforcement officer, took a job as director of safety for the Georgetown County School District.

“There was some initial concern by a very few people about how a former law enforcement officer would perform as a judge. I understand that,” Furr said. “In my opinion, I’ve been very fair to both sides.” If anything, he added, he’s tougher on police because he knows what’s required of them.

Love agreed with that. After he was recruited to the Highway Patrol by the former sergeant in charge of Horry County, “I was always taught about compassion. Listen to what the people on the road were saying to you,” Love said. “People deserve second chances. It’s not about seeing how many tickets you can write.”

Pyatt, a former investigator with the sheriff’s office, was impressed by Love. “It think he will make a fine magistrate,” he said. “He’s a fair guy.”

Love met with Pyatt on Wednesday to discuss his transition. He will start training next week.

When Furr became magistrate, he said, he was prepared for the criminal side of the court, but had no experience in civil cases. “I really had to get my nose into the books on the civil side,” he said. “I was initially a little shocked about how complicated these civil cases can get.”

In the last eight years, it’s been the civil caseload that has grown the most, he said. “It’s the economic climate. People are more inclined to sue now,” Furr said. And people have had a harder time paying their bills. “There have been a lot of really sad situations I’ve had to preside over,” he added.

He only knew Love by reputation, but Furr said “I have every confidence that Tony will be doing a good job.”

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