Mount Pleasant is no longer a sleepy little place “over the bridge” and minutes from Charleston. The Town of Mount Pleasant has been awarded “All- American City” among other national honors. Both the Mount Pleasant Police Department and the Mount Pleasant Fire Department are nationally accredited agencies, the prize after a rigorous battery of tests, reports and analyses.
The bar has been set high, and it is absolutely no surprise that the key players behind the town’s infrastructure have high standards as well. I recently caught up with the heads of the Mount Pleasant Police Department (Chief Carl Ritchie), Mount Pleasant Fire Department (Chief Herbert Williams) and Mount Pleasant EMS (Chief Leon Boyd) to see what makes them tick.
Chief Carl Ritchie, MPPD
Chief Carl Ritchie will celebrate his first anniversary as Chief of Mount Pleasant Police Department on January 1. But even before the Johns Island native started his law enforcement career, he served active duty in the United States Air Force.
When he returned, Ritchie joined the North Charleston Police Department. In 1989, Chief Ritchie switched to the Mount Pleasant Police Department as a police officer and now it has been almost 25 years that he has been dedicated to Mount Pleasant’s citizens. He credits much to the men and women in the department who put in the time and effort every day.
Chief Ritchie chuckles when he recalls that there were only 30 people in the department at the time. (The department now employs 149 sworn officers and 43 civilian personnel, serving a population of 67,000.)
Hurricane Hugo hit shortly after Chief Ritchie came to Mount Pleasant, and he still vividly remembers working the street non-stop during the storm.
“Driving down Coleman Boulevard, seeing sailboats in the middle of the road and the Ben Sawyer [Bridge] off its axis, it was a moment of awe,” he said.
Within his resume of assignments are Major of the Operations Bureau, Uniform Patrol, Traffic, Narcotics, Criminal Investigation, Administrative Services and Special Weapons and Tactics Team (S.W.A.T.) Chief Ritchie has been a large part of getting the town to where it is today safety-wise. He recounted that when the Venning Road area was a thorough-fare for drugs, he went under-cover to catch people buying the drugs. He is proud of shutting down the drug operation and getting the area cleaned up.
He also developed and instituted the first fully functional Special Weapons and Tactics Team for the Mount Pleasant Police Department. According to Chief Ritchie, the team is one of the best in the state and the MPPD has been asked to handle other jurisdictions. He had an office in the Old Wando High School where he introduced and implemented the Emergency Placard System used in all Charleston County Schools to make emergency responses more efficient during a school crisis.
The MPPD became a flagship agency in 2005, which Ritchie explains set the standards across the nation. “What an accomplishment,” he said.
Ritchie said that Coleman Blvd. is a very well-visited area and he has been putting patrol officers on foot and bikes opposed to cruisers. For the holidays, Chief Ritchie reminds citizens of the importance of locking their cars and not leaving valuables on the seat, hence the “Lock it or Lose it” campaign. He reminds folks to be careful with their cash, not carrying a large amount with them in case someone steals their wallet. And never leave a purse in the shopping cart. Also important is the texting while driving ban that Town Council just passed. Chief Ritchie reminds folks to pull over and park if it is necessary to read or send a text.
As he used to coach Little League Football, Ritchie would tell his players the same motto that he lives by: “All things can be accomplished through hard work and dedication.” “I am a testament to that,” he said.
Chief Herbert Williams, MPFD
Seven years ago, Chief Williams was appointed chief of the Mount Pleasant Fire Department. Chief Williams is going on his 27th year with the MPFD having climbed the ranks from firefighter, station captain, training officer, battalion chief, assistant chief in charge of operation to his current post as chief.
The Bennetsville, SC native said, “I work with a group of people who allow me to do my job and that way I can have a positive impact on the community.” This is very important for the MPFD which has provided fire suppression and emergency services since 1837. In addition to its five fire stations, there is an administrative office located at Town Hall and 116 paid personnel plus 14 volunteers.
“We must prove that we are the best at what we do,” explained Chief Williams, in reference to the nationally- accredited status. “It is a status that one cannot prove by just putting documents together, but rather through a process that the National Firefighters Association holds,” he justified, citing examples of response time, equipment and training.
Being accredited, according to Williams, will not allow anyone in his department to become complacent. “You will have to critique yourself constantly,” he said.
Thankfully, according to Chief Williams, through PSA’s, the number of fires has decreased during the holiday season. The chief reminds us to be mindful with lighting candles and fires, remembering to properly extinguish them. While people love to decorate with lights this time of year, Chief Williams reminds them to use the proper extension cords and never old lights. Turkey fryer fires are rare, but people should remember to not use these inside, including inside garages. A fire extinguisher should be nearby at all times, and operators should put down the adult beverages.
“Outline your life in pencil not in pen” is a motto Williams, who is always open to change and growth, lives by. In addition to those he serves and trains, he shares this with his parishioners at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where he is an ordained deacon.
Chief Leon Boyd, EMS for MPFD
Leon Boyd, Division Chief for Emergency Medical Services for the Mount Pleasant Fire Department, explains that the Mount Pleasant Fire Department is unique in that it is the only fire department in the Tri-county area with paramedics on the engine. Chief Boyd joined the MPFD in 2010 after an almost 40 year career with Charleston County and before that a three-year stint with the United States Army, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.
Chief Boyd explains that his present-day EMS team has the ability to get to a home in a matter of minutes.
“We have documentations of patients who were clinically dead, but because of our medical services, they had a better outcome,” he pointed out.
In 2010 the Mount Pleasant Fire Department ran 5,716 emergency response calls. Of these calls 3,615 were for emergency medical assists.
“We have the resources when they call,” said the Greenville native. The Fire Department personnel are trained to administer life-saving procedures and medications. Often, the patient is stabilized before EMS arrives to transport the patient to the hospital.
The medical emergency 911 calls run the gamut from delivering a baby, having a seizure, diabetic complications or a heart condition. But he explains that what is unique about the Town’s response is that they have the resources that an emergency room would have: heart monitors, pain medications, etc.
Mount Pleasant is well-equipped with award-winning departments to keep everyone safe. Visit The Town of Mount Pleasant’s Web site at www.tompsc.com for more information.
By Helen Ravenel Hammond
Photo By Kate McKinley