ANDERSON - On a night when Sheriff's Lt. Chad Brooks was honored as Pickens County Officer of the Year, Sheriff C. David Stone got a surprise honor of his own.
"It was a total surprise," Stone said of the presentation to him by state Sens. Larry Martin and Thomas Alexander of the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian honor, during the third annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet last Thursday at the Anderson Civic Center.
The $25-a-head event, which drew almost 500 people from Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties, serves as both a forum for honoring outstanding law enforcement personnel in the three counties and as a fundraiser to criminal justice scholarships at Anderson University and Tri-County Technical College.
Stone, who has served as Sheriff of Pickens County since January of 1969 and has announced that he will be seeking a new term in the 2008 elections, said his longevity in office alone wasn't worthy of the award.
"I certainly was happy to receive the Order of the Palmetto," he said, "and I'm sure anybody would be proud of it. I certainly am. But I take it as an honor to the people who do the work - a group of people working at the Sheriff's Office who made it possible."
Stone also seemed just as proud of Brooks' award as he was of his own Order of the Palmetto.
"He's done the work to keep drugs off the street, he and his people," Stone said of the 20-year Sheriff's Office veteran, "and he's done a tremendous job.
"I'm not saying we don't have drugs here," he continued. "Unfortunately, we're going to have them because there's so much money involved in that trade, and people have habits. But it's like meth labs - that was a big one here at one time, and you just don't hear that much about them now."
He noted that the reduction in meth labs resulted partly from changes in state and federal laws that required such over-the-counter decongestants at Sudafed, which were one of the primary ingredients used in those labs, to be moved off the open shelf.
But, he said, "They've done the hard work for us in Pickens County, and it's paid off."
Brooks started with the Sheriff's Office in the late 1980s as a detention officer, then moved to road patrol before being placed in Special Operations.
In addition to Brooks, other law enforcement awards went to Anderson County Sheriff David Crenshaw as Anderson University Criminal Justice Alumnus of the Year; Lt. Edward Jackson Aman, Tri-County Tech alumnus of the year; Sgts. Mike Holmes and Mark Moore, co-winners of the Oconee County Officer of the Year award; and Lt. Chris Scott, Anderson County Officer of the Year.