HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson is officially running unopposed in the election for the sheriff's position. The deadline to file for the race passed last week.
"I'm not ready to retire yet," he said. "I'm not ready to go home."
Thompson first began his career in law enforcement at the Myrtle Beach Police Department. Then, he worked his way up through the ranks at the Horry County Police Department
"In my mid-20s, I got started in law enforcement," Thompson said. "I see that as my calling. It's not just a job. It's not just a career."
He decided to run for sheriff and won the 2000 race.
After the race results are made official, the next four years will be Thompson's fifth term.
He plans to continue working on what the office has been doing for the past 15 years.
When he started as sheriff in 2001, he immediately got to work on creating a transportation division that would allow arresting agencies to keep people in holding cells locally until sheriff's office staff members could pick them up to bring them to the jail.
"It takes a long time to drive from one end of the county with traffic to another location and go through the booking process," Thompson said. "You could be off the street for an hour or two hours at a time."
The sheriff has also helped consolidate the warrant and civil process.
J. Reuben Long Detention Center has seen a major renovation under Thompson. The jail had 400 beds, yet was averaging 700 inmates per day, he said.
"So, we were extremely, extremely overcrowded," Thompson said.
Now, the jail has 1,000 beds. Its layout and design were based on recommendations from staff members, and the booking process is also faster.
Thompson is also working to keep more people out of the renovated jail.
He started a jail diversion program several years ago to help non-violent offenders who have served time readjust to life outside of a cell.
"We're at a 70 percent positive rate with our folks that have gone through that program who have not re-entered the penal system and have not re-entered the detention center," he said.
Thompson, along with the solicitor's office and some other partners, started a mental health court last June to help repeat offenders with mental health issues.
They tried to secure grants for two years, but were unsuccessful. Instead, they started the program by pooling together resources. The hope is to get more grants now that the program has begun.
"Do we keep that revolving door going or do we try to do something about it?" Thompson said. "Our success rate with that hasn't been as successful as our drug court has been, but we are making headways."
His next focus is on at-risk teenagers. The sheriff's office plans to start a program called SOAR in June.
Teenagers will go to jail for a night for physical exercise, mentoring and counseling. Their parents will go through a seminar to help reinforce what their children have learned to keep them from ever going to jail for real. Those teenagers will also receive follow-up mentoring after their in lock-up.
"Our young people's our future," Thompson said. "Some of them make bad decisions and do bad things. What we want to do is get them on the right track again."
Thompson also plans to continue raising money for the Sheriff's Foundation of Horry County, which has provided $75,000 in scholarship money since its inception to students looking to go into law enforcement, or current law enforcement officers planning to go back to school.