Berkeley sheriff’s vacancy stirs buzz Candidates might announce Saturday in ‘wide-open race’

Berkeley County Chief Deputy Rick Ollic, who is interim sheriff, is shown speaking with a group of Cub Scouts last September. Political insiders say he is a likely candidate for the sheriff’s job.

With news of Berkeley County Sheriff Dwayne DeWitt’s resignation settling in, rumors started swirling Thursday over who might become the county’s next top cop.

“I believe the race will be wide open,” said Berkeley County Republican Party Chairman Josh Whitley. “There will be a lot of interest in people running.”

DeWitt resigned Wednesday, more than a month after he was arrested on a DUI charge in Goose Creek after allegedly leaving the scene of an accident. His county pickup was seen speeding from a police car at 108 mph after he fled from a crash site, according to authorities. He had been sheriff for 20 years.

The county Senate delegation recommended Calvitt “Chab” Clarke, 59, a retired SLED agent who lives in the Summerville area, to Gov. Nikki Haley as a possible temporary replacement. Her appointment would serve until a special election is scheduled and could not run for office.

Clarke retired from SLED in 2010 but was reactivated to serve on former Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s security detail until McConnell became president of the College of Charleston last year.

“I am quite honored that the delegation would put forth my name for consideration,” Clarke said Thursday. “If the governor does appoint me, I plan on just trying to regain integrity and character in that office and assure Berkeley County citizens that somebody is providing leadership.”

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, said Thursday local senators wanted to find someone who would be a “caretaker” for the position, and “Chab would do a good job and would only do it for a short time.”

The dates for the special election have not yet been set, officials said, but according to state law, filing could be opened Feb. 20 to March 2, with a primary May 5 and the election June 9. The Berkeley County Voter Registration & Elections office has not been officially notified of the vacancy.

Whitley said he has fielded four phone calls recently from possible candidates for the post but declined to identify the callers.

“As chairman I cannot endorse or get involved in the campaign, but the party will make sure that all candidates who are running will be treated fairly,” Whitley said.

He said candidates could announce at the group’s monthly breakfast on Saturday. The party will also likely hold a candidate forum before the election.

Names being discussed in the community are Berkeley County Chief Deputy Rick Ollic, retired Highway Patrol officer Marty Housand, North Charleston police officer Brian Adams and Moncks Corner Police Chief Chad Caldwell, according to political insiders.

Housand confirmed that he plans to run.

“I feel like it’s a time that I need to step up for Berkeley County,” he said. “I want to bring trust back to the county and the Sheriff’s Office. I want people to be able to trust law enforcement in our county and to build that professionalism back up.”

Ollic, who assumed the role of interim sheriff when DeWitt stepped down, said he has not made a decision.

“I’m truly just trying to focus on the agency and the position that I’m in right now,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to ponder (running) until I speak with my family. At this point, I’m not ready to make a decision.”

Adams, who ran against DeWitt in the Republican primary last year, did not return phone calls Thursday, but several people have volunteered via his Facebook page to help him campaign.

Caldwell, a former SLED investigator and North Charleston Police chief, was not available Thursday.

Melissa Watson, chairman of the Berkeley County Democratic Party, said she has not had calls from prospective candidates, “but we are actively seeking someone.”

Jeremy Borden contributed to this story. Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.