School of Public Service and Administration
Command College Helped Equip McBride for Leadership of One of South Carolina’s Largest Sheriff’s Offices
It’s been more than 20 years since Chad McBride took an oath as a law enforcement officer to protect and serve the public. Since being elected sheriff in 2016, he remains passionate about ensuring Anderson County is a safe place to live and raise a family. A third cohort graduate of the Command College of South Carolina, Chad values the wealth of knowledge he’s received from experienced law enforcement professionals in the Command College. In addition to being actively involved in his church and community, Chad gives back to his Alma Mater as an adjunct professor in criminal justice.
Are you from Anderson originally?
I spent the first 10 years of my life in Texas and then we moved here in 1988. I remember Gene Taylor was the sheriff at the time. It turns out he was the sheriff I started my career with at the Sheriff’s Office. He hired me right after he started his last term. He’d been sheriff for 16 years.
How did you become interested in law enforcement as a career?
After I attended Anderson, I joined the Army. I went into basic training and all that. After you finish basic in your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) school, you would pick whether you were going to stay full-time military, National Guard, or Army Reserves. At the time I decided I’m going to do Army Reserves. I was a squad leader in my platoon and throughout basic and MOS school and all that and my first squad leader probably was a police officer in the Philadelphia Police Department. He was telling me stories and stuff, and I had never really thought about being a law enforcement officer, but after hearing stories and then of course the uniqueness of the military with the structure and everything, as a civilian, law enforcement was probably the closest thing and very appealing.
So I came back home, was attached to a reserve unit in Greenville for several months and I applied with Greenville County and Anderson County and got picked up by Anderson County right after Gene Taylor won his last election. I started officially with the Sheriff’s Office in 2001.
How did you discover Anderson University’s School of Public Service and Administration?
I finished through my junior year and then came back a few years later. My father had passed away during my freshman year and I kind of had a rough time, but anyway the military helped me get on track and a few years later I finished. There was a night program then.
And then later on, of course, knowing George Ducworth, I was asked to come try out the Command College. That was back in 2011. I graduated in 2013. I was in the third cohort of the Command College.
What are some ways your education from the South Carolina Command College helps you professionally?
I learned a lot in the Command College. I was certainly in the beginning stages of the Command College, but everything I learned was so relative. It wasn’t just focused only on criminal justice but more of a corporate level leadership style. The various degrees of leadership and styles of leadership that I learned was very profound, especially coming from an institution—military and then law enforcement and it’s very rank and file oriented. There’s of course chain of command. The Command College opened my eyes to the various forms of leadership. I would say a lot of things I wasn’t as familiar with like human resources and stuff like that that I learned, was very important, especially after I was elected and was able to assume command of the Sheriff’s Office. I used a lot of those, just the stuff I had never even touched on before that I learned in the Command College. It was very beneficial.
How many people does the Sheriff’s Office employ?
We have about 425 full-time employees and almost a hundred part-time employees on top of that—school crossing guards and all that stuff. It’s 525, give or take a few here and there. Probably about 350 sworn officers. We are probably at least the fifth-largest law enforcement agency in South Carolina. We have grown significantly over the last four or five years. Every county is unique too, where things are in government. Within Anderson County we have a lot more than just patrol and investigations. We also have emergency management, we have animal control, we have 911 dispatch. I also have the jail under me. In some counties of South Carolina the jail is not under the sheriff. Really anything that’s even remotely similar to law enforcement or emergency management all falls under the umbrella of the Sheriff of Anderson County.
Can you talk about the initiative for a new jail?
It’s something that needed to be addressed for a long time, certainly a very old facility, one which has needed a lot of attention over the years. Of course it’s not the sexiest idea in the world, building a jail, especially to a taxpayer, which I can understand. I’m a taxpayer also. It’s one that is certainly needed.
Our jail was built in 1956, rated for 200 inmates and today we’re probably pushing between 450 and 500. It’s dangerous for the inmates. It’s dangerous for the officers who have to work in that environment. So George Ducworth was very instrumental in starting the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which helped lead the charge. Some things we needed to do and boxes to check before we can really pursue a new detention facility intelligently. George has been a big asset to our community. I plan on doing a lot of things within the jail—creating more spaces for more ministry opportunities, job training opportunities, trying to get folks on their feet and hope they won’t come back.
What advice would you give somebody who is in law enforcement and considering furthering their professional development?
I think degrees are important. I’m proud of both degrees I achieved. There’s just something different about the Command College and there’s something different about that graduate degree. I’ve got a lot of friends that have master’s degrees, even Ph.D.s and I can tell you that I think this course is so specific for executives in law enforcement roles—maybe campus safety roles, very security minded. It’s so much different from any master’s degree programs that I’ve heard about anywhere else. I’m very proud of Anderson University in the fact that they have the Command College, because that’s impressive, it is the Command College of South Carolina; almost every state has one now. The fact that it’s here in Anderson and that the idea was born here in Anderson is remarkable.
There’s a lot of work involved, there’s a lot of reading research involved, but I’m going to tell you that the program itself is very specific to an executive leadership role in law enforcement and kind of custom-tailored for an executive leader in law enforcement. So everything within the course is super-relevant. You’re not going to go off far left or far right on just crazy ideas. You get into a little theory of course, especially seeing the ones that didn’t work, but it’s a very impressive course. What I think is great about it is—not that I don’t love the academia folks—but these are folks who have lived in this world, they have lived in the criminal justice community, whether they have prosecuted cases, whether they have made cases, been on the police side of the house, maybe the prosecuting side of the house, the command level side of the house and so you have instructors that have been through various agencies, various different sizes of agencies, and so whether you’re coming from a small agency or a large agency, the Command College has you covered.
I understand you teach some classes as well.
I do. I’ve been teaching in the undergrad program as an adjunct professor for 10 years now. This semester I’m currently teaching the corrections course within the criminal justice program. Last semester I taught one of the criminal law classes. I have been blessed to have taught both seated classes in person and then online classes. Obviously I prefer the seated in person class to get that dialog going that you just don’t see with the online courses. It’s actually paid a lot of dividends for us because we’ve hired a lot of recruits from graduates of Anderson University’s criminal justice program. We’ve hired a lot of those kids into the Sheriff’s Office and most of them are still with me enjoying their careers in law enforcement.
You have some interns as well.
Yes sir. I’ve got some currently in the forensics and crime scene department right now.
Share a little bit about the joys and challenges of your role leading the ACSO.
Some of the joys, I would say, that I’ve been able to experience… Obviously it’s serving my community, serving the deputies and the staff that we have at the Sheriff’s Office. I’ve plugged in to the deputies and in return they’ve plugged into the community, and I would say that I think we’re seeing a really good return on our investment when we invest in our people at the Sheriff’s Office, and then seeing them invest into the community and how that comes back around.
Obviously, putting bad guys in jail is always rewarding, because you’re getting the criminals off the street, at least for a short period of time. Obviously the judicial system has its challenges and problems, but the joys I guess from knowing that we’re doing everything we can to keep our community safe.
The challenges, I would say…
My dad was an accountant, my grandfather was an accountant, and I knew I didn’t want to be an accountant. But here I am figuring out that I’m actually an accountant managing a $40 million budget. The budgeting end, I knew that was part of the gig, I had no idea… if you’re doing it right, you’re constantly working on the budget, and so that’s obviously some of the challenges, because $40 million sounds like a lot and it is. Of course a lot of that is payroll for 525 people. But it seems like you can’t have enough with your budget. There’s a lot of programs, a lot of initiatives you’d like to see accomplished, and then when you get into the budget to see if you can make it happen, there’s just not quite enough to do it. Those are some of the frustrations, obviously.
The law enforcement world is dangerous. I’d say some of the other challenges are seeing your people hurt or killed. We lost an officer six months into my first term as sheriff. I lost a deputy in a training exercise. That was certainly the hardest thing probably that I’ve ever been through. And of course he was a father of four young children, married, and having to break the news to his wife. Even after that, seeing other deputies with other close calls being injured as a result of having to go hands-on out here. Sometimes they do. I’ve seen some careers end because of injuries. So that’s certainly a challenge.
Probably the biggest joys I’ve seen is being able to help an employee in need. We grew our Sheriff’s Foundation. We’ve been able to really take it to the next level, really raise a lot of money to be able to support our people. Times get hard. It’s inevitable— somebody’s child is sick and going through a terrible illness, and then a hot water heater busts and there’s damage to a floor and subfloor—all of those things come in threes as they say. Being able to have a foundation, we raise a lot of money through the community and being able to support that and take care of those issues so they’re not worried about that. That’s the least of their worries, they can worry about their family member, their child or whatever.
It’s obviously a challenge when you have that many employees. You see a lot of personal strife, some sad situations the employees face at home. That would be some of it. Law enforcement is a tough business. The divorce rate is a lot higher in law enforcement than it is in the regular civilian world. I think a lot of folks take for granted what first responders go through and see on a daily basis. They see a lot of tragedy and heartache. That takes a toll too on somebody’s person, and obviously that can take a toll on their family too if they’re not addressing that and they have another outlet to vent some of those frustrations they deal with on a daily basis. We’re working through that, and some of the stuff I’ve learned in the Command College, we’re using that to research the best methods and best practices and see what industry standards are for even corporations outside of law enforcement, what are they doing to help with employee stress, personal strife and that kind of stuff.
At the end of the day, what gives you a feeling of accomplishment?
When I first took office in January 2017, the starting pay for an Anderson County deputy was $31,000 a year. Today we’re at $49,000 starting pay with no experience, and so we’ve made a lot of headway with pay. We’re now one of the most competitive agencies as far as pay goes, especially in the Upstate. Basically we’ve solved a lot of the retention issues in Anderson County. We’ve given our employees some job satisfaction. We’ve been able to really turn some things around. We’re very proud of some of the initiatives we’ve been able to implement.
What are some of the biggest needs on the horizon for Anderson County?
According to most real estate journals that you’ll read, I think we’re in the second fastest growing location in the United States, being the Upstate of South Carolina. Anderson has a lot to offer. Obviously we’re close to the mountains, we have a lot of lakes. We also have Interstate 85 which you can get on and get anywhere relatively fast, especially Atlanta and Charlotte.
I would say that, especially for law enforcement for our areas, we have so many people coming from so many areas and walks of life and I think law enforcement in the Upstate, specifically Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg counties, need to be prepared because with a lot of the good that’s coming in, there’s also the bad. With crime, obviously the more people you have, the more criminal element you’re going to have to deal with. I-85 is a pipeline. Atlanta’s a major problem as far as crime goes. Used to be Miami and 95, now it’s Atlanta and 85. We have that literally knocking on our back door and so I think as this area explodes with development and stuff like that, our county leaders need to be prepared.
A lot of people don’t think about emergency services. You know it’s not just police, you’ve got to be willing to increase your fire and EMS footprint because you’re going to need it with the huge increase in population and development, industrial development and so I’m just anxious to see where we’re going to be in 10 years compared to where we are. We’re certainly different from where we were 10 years ago.
I understand that your daughter goes to AU.
She’s a freshman here in her second semester in the nursing program. She has done very well. I’m super proud of her. She had all A’s her first semester, and made the dean’s list and all that. She has wanted to be a nurse for a long long time. She’s following her dreams. We looked at a lot of colleges. She was accepted everywhere. She landed on Anderson. Even though she grew up here and she said at first, ‘Dad I really don’t want to go where I grew up,” and then after we did the tour and saw the nursing program and what it has to offer, it is really set apart from the other colleges and universities, so she was very impressed. She said “wow, this is where I need to be.” She’s staying on campus and she’s getting the full experience.
Most law enforcement would lie to you if they didn’t tell you they weren’t an adrenaline junkie. It’s the excitement I think that keeps you pulled in. For a dangerous job that doesn’t pay as much as it should, it’s probably the excitement and not knowing what’s next is what keeps that drive and passion for law enforcement going. I think nursing is a lot like that. She wants the full experience. She wants to be in the ER. She doesn’t know what she’s going to be dealing with from one thing to the next. She likes to stay on her toes and that’s probably very appealing.
As you progress in your career… there was a time where after having three children and wanting to have a safer environment sometimes a desk job’s a little more appealing for safety purposes. Who knows where she’ll be down the road, and I think she likes the idea of the excitement in the ER and all that.
What else can you say about Anderson University?
It’s a great place. I love the Christian environment. That’s important to me, the way I was brought up. I’m proud of the fact that this is still a Christian university and the morals and standards that come with that. That’s why I’m so excited my daughter is here, she’s always been very involved in ministry, and ministry teams. That was important to us and very important to her when she was trying to select which university she would come to.
When you’re not doing law enforcement work, are there some hobbies you enjoy?
I love to hunt, as long as I have time to hunt. I have three daughters, so I’m chasing them around to their various sporting events. Probably an interesting fact about our family is my two oldest daughters rodeo. Specifically they barrel race. My oldest daughter, who is here on campus, was fifth in the state when she graduated high school in barrel racing, and it’s something she has trained to do for 10 years. Her younger sister, my middle daughter Emily is a junior in high school and she started a little bit later with it than Matti did but she’s certainly catching on very quickly and she’s really good at it.
My youngest daughter, she’s only eight. She’s a ball player right now. So you’ve got to have one who doesn’t rodeo, which is fine. My free time… outside of work, family first, and then if I have some time for recreation it’s usually probably working around our small ranch, doing some work around there, and doing some hunting here and there. We have 15 acres. It’s just right. Not overwhelming.