Governor Nikki Haley has tapped the next leader of South Carolina’s Department of Public Safety. Haley looked to Florida for her choice of the next DPS director.
Major Leroy Smith has served numerous roles in the past 22 years for Florida’s Highway Patrol, including head of the Highway Patrol Academy from 2008-2010 and its Bureau of Investigations the past two years.
“When you see him, we are looking at the total package,” Haley said in a press conference Monday, “He has over 22 years of experience in law enforcement… He has gotten Florida through 8 hurricanes as the head of the Emergency Management Division.”
Before entering the Highway Patrol, Smith served in the U.S. Navy for four years. He then became a Florida trooper in 1989, eventually rising to become a district commander in Gainesville. After getting a criminology degree from St. Leo University, he took over the agency’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2003. He moved to the Office of Inspections three years later.
He eventually got a Master’s in Public Administration degree in 2007 from Florida State University.
Smith said one of the biggest issues he faces will be funding in a time of tight state budgets. “DPS will be faced with financial crisis,” he said Monday, “But we will be fiscally responsible in terms of watching every penny that we spend.”
He replaces interim director Colonel F. Kenny Lancaster Jr., who took over as acting director after previous chief Mark Keel became the head of the State Law Enforcement Division in July. Lancaster’s brief tenure has had some controversy, as a woman is accusing him of covering up an affair in the late 1990s. The Attorney General’s Office is looking into that case.
Smith did not want to say yet if he plans to keep Lancaster with the agency in the future. “We will look at situations, we will look at circumstances,” he told reporters, “And we will make a determination.”
Smith will take control of the agency on November 15.
He is married with three children.