The state’s top cop was sworn in today. Gov. Nikki Haley told Mark Keel “Welcome home” as she read him the oath of office in front more than 500 attendees at the state’s Criminal Justice Academy. Keel reiterated in his speech that he has always wanted to lead the agency. He asked the state’s law enforcement community to have patience “as we begin to provide the services that SLED was intended to provide.”
Keel worked for SLED for more than 30 years and was second in command to SLED Chief Robert Stewart until he retired. At that time, Stewart and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Jean Toal lobbied to put Keel in charge. Chief Stewart was on hand today to honor his protegé.
“I felt like Mark was prepared as my number two when I promoted him to that level. He was my number two for five or six years or more and I recommended him to take my place when I left. That did not happen but now it has and I am very pleased,” Stewart said after the ceremony.
Gov. Mark Sanford instead chose Reggie Lloyd to be chief. Keel was tapped to lead the State Department of Public Safety until now. Lloyd was not at today’s ceremony and he relationship with new Gov. Nikki Haley was tense until his resignation.
Haley, who has been building her Cabinet since January, says she thinks Keel has a tough job ahead:
“This was one of the agencies that it most important to me and to my husband Michael because I so desperately want law enforcement to feel support. I so desperately want them to understand that this state needs them and appreciates them. So this was as much for me about improving the morale of an agency that so desperately needed it,” she told the group.
Justice Toal offered her best wishes from the podium, saying: “I consider the chief of SLED as my greatest partner as chief of the judicial system in this state. I know too well that the judicial business and the law enforcement business are lonely businesses.”