McMaster names Highway Patrol veteran to head state’s public safety department

McMaster names Highway Patrol veteran to head state’s public safety department
Gov. Henry McMaster named South Carolina Highway Patrol Maj. Robert G. Woods IV to be the next director of the state's Department of Public Safety. (Source: Live 5)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster named his next choice to head the South Carolina Department of Public Safety Wednesday afternoon.

McMaster wants Robert G. Wood IV to head the agency. Wood has served as its acting director since January.

“Nobody is better suited to lead the South Carolina Department of Public Safety than Mr. Woods,” McMaster said. “His proven ability to lead and solve complex problems through innovative policy decisions and public outreach will continue to serve South Carolina well and will help the agency maintain its status as one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country.”

During his time as acting director, Woods has worked to increase department communication, improve employee morale, and implemented data-driven programs to create safer highways, a release from the governor’s office states. Going forward, Woods plans to strengthen relationships with state and local law enforcement leaders and increase recruitment and retention efforts.

Before being named acting director at SCDPS, Woods oversaw the Highway Patrol’s Administrative Support section as a Highway Patrol major. Before that, he served as commander of the Highway Patrol Emergency Traffic Management Unit. Woods is a 1988 graduate of The Citadel and holds a master’s degree in Human Relations and Conflict Management from Columbia College. He is also a graduate of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Leadership Institute and holds a Certified Public Manager Credential.

“Serving as Director of SCDPS was something I would have never imagined during my time with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, but serving this department and my state in an interim director capacity has truly been one of the greatest privileges of my career,” Woods said. “My primary goal has been to stabilize the department and break down any barriers leading to inefficiencies so that our personnel are energized and excited about their jobs and the challenge of serving this state’s citizens with excellence.”

“The SC Department of Public Safety cannot be the DPS of 20 years ago. We must take advantage of technology, equipment and training to ensure the safety of our law enforcement and in turn the safety of the citizens and visitors to our state,” Woods said. “We must provide our law enforcement and civilian support personnel with sound training and empower our employees to lead as we tackle the challenges of 21st century policing.”

The governor’s nomination is subject to state Senate approval.

Late last year, McMaster nominated North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess, whom he called “one of the finest leaders our state has ever produced,” to head the agency. But in January, Burgess decided to withdraw from consideration, citing concerns involving his family.

“As my nomination and confirmation has progressed, it has taken an emotional toll on my family,” Burgess said in a letter to McMaster. “They have always wholeheartedly and unconditionally supported my career in law enforcement, and I believe that in this case, I must support them and place them first. I respectfully request that my nomination be withdrawn.”

McMaster released a statement in response to Burgess’s decision, saying in part that his decision to prioritize family “says all anyone needs to know about Chief Burgess,” adding that he would find “great comfort in knowing that he’s not going far and will continue to serve our people through his leadership at the North Charleston Police Department.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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