Battling the drug trade in Panama and policing the rural streets of Great Falls have taught Lancaster native Scott Case how to do many things.
One skill he hopes will prove the most valuable come November is how to dream big without promising absolutes.
On Nov. 6, Lancaster County residents will flock to the polls to pick their next sheriff. Their choices: current Democratic Sheriff Barry Faile, whose father once held the position for 12 years, and Lancaster High School graduate Scott Case, a Republican.
Sandy McGarry, chairwoman for the Lancaster County Republican Party, commended Case for his personable campaign tactics, stating that hes made himself a part of the people.
Scotts doing a great job. He has some great ideas, McGarry said. Scott has been working his tail off getting out meeting the people, listening to concerns and addressing them as best he can.
It hasnt been an easy task for Case, who McGarry admitted isnt a county insider.
He doesnt work for the sheriffs department. He only has what little information he gets, she said.
McGarry, who said she hasnt lived in Lancaster long enough to evaluate Failes performance as sheriff, did admit that the Democratic incumbent wont be an easy opponent to defeat.
He has many, many, many supporters, said McGarry, including Democrats and Republicans.
He is a strong sheriff and hes going to be tough to beat, she said. Ive never heard a complaint about him never.
Failes support base is broad, said his brother and campaign manager, Buddy Faile, adding that Faile has built relationships with state and federal agencies.
A rundown of his campaign finances reported to the state ethics commission shows that hes received contributions from supporters in Lancaster, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and from the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, a professional police organization based in Georgia.
Starting as a patrol officer and working through the ranks of the sheriffs department, Failes amassed enough experience to make him the most qualified for the job, his brother said. Hes taken law enforcement classes ranging from animal fighting to the use of informants.
When the Faile brothers father, Willford Faile, was sheriff, Barry Faile would spend afternoons after school at the sheriffs office, learning what they do, Buddy Faile said.
When it became time for him to take a career path, he knew very early on what he wanted to do, he said.
But Failes popularity and family roots havent deterred Case, who spent four years working counter-narcotics in Panama along with the Drug Enforcement Agency after serving five years in the Navy and experiencing combat in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. He also worked as a NATO soldier during the 1995 Bosnia conflict, where he worked in communications.
Beckoning his opponent to be honest with the people, Faile said Case, the father of two daughters, once applied for a job at the Lancaster County Sheriffs Office but didnt clear the background check.
Case admitted that he made a foolish mistake almost 20 years ago when he drank a few beers and sat behind the wheel after his going-away party from the Navy. He was caught after leaving the naval base in Mayport, Fla., and charged with driving under the influence.
It was a mistake and I paid for it, Case said. But, now Im trying to run for office; Im not trying to hide anything.
Years later, Case returned to South Carolina, where he received an associate degree in business and another one in management from York Technical College. Now, he works in Great Falls, which he says has prepared him for almost anything.
In Great Falls you do it all, including investigating, serving warrants and even setting up counseling appointments for victims, he said. We dont turn it over to anybody; we take care of it ourselves.
Im determined, he said.
Faile said hes confident his record as sheriff will speak volumes on Election Day.
More officers are patrolling the countys streets, Faile said, and partnerships with other agencies have helped beef up deputies manpower.
Faile first took office in 2009. For the next two years, the countys number of violent crimes decreased by 20 percent, he said.
Then came a surge this year, in which 12 people have been killed in the city and county as a result of frequent shootings and stabbings. Nine of those victims died in the county.
Faile has admitted its an unfavorable statistic but he said the sheriffs office is being proactive in solving the problem. On his agenda for re-election is implementing CrimeTrack, a crime mapping software that gives police agencies statistics on crime in communities and neighborhoods.
With CrimeTrack or what Faile called problem-oriented policing lieutenants and patrol officers are assigned to certain districts and responsible for responding and taking care of problems in that area.
We certainly want our officers out there, talking to the people, finding out what their problems are, he said.
But for 25-year-old Lancaster resident Tracy Denkins, its not enough. In March, Denkins started a Facebook group called Dont Re-Elect Barry Faile. The group gained 30 members before Denkins stopped posting because of the negative messages and feedback he received.
Barry Faile has a lot of supporters, said Denkins, the father of a 3-year-old son. Everybody loved his dad when he was sheriff.
But Denkins says hes not sure if the sheriffs impressive track record measured up during his time in office, citing a surge in violence he blames on a lack of change and officer presence in different communities.
Honestly, I dont feel safe for my son to start school, he said.
Instead, Denkins is looking to Case, who has touted ideas such as community advisory boards to help improve neighborhoods. But Denkins wonders how Case will fare against a popular candidate such as Faile.
Hes fighting an uphill battle, Denkins said.
Describing his ideas as visions and dreams, Case said he hopes one day community members and deputies will work together hand in hand.
Theres a substation in Kershaw, theres a substation in Indian Land; one day a week, I want to be at each substation so the people in the local areas can come and talk to the sheriff instead of having to ride all the way to Lancaster to get an appointment, he said.
If elected, Case said hell start a community advisory board comprised of individuals in the community not elected officials who will meet with him one day a month and air what issues are affecting their neighborhoods.
Im going to get with my people, my staff, and were going to address those issues, he said.
He wont promise absolutes.
If we just cant address it, Im man enough to tell the people, We looked into this, theres no way we can handle this problem at this time, he said.