Tony Breeden, left, is shown during the campaign in this photo from his Facebook page.

Retired police lieutenant Tony Breeden will return to law enforcement after winning Tuesday’s Republican runoff for York County Sheriff.

Breeden, 55, defeated Rock Hill Deputy Chief Michael Belk in a close matchup for the position as the county’s top cop. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Breeden had 51.9 percent of the vote. He will replace retiring Sheriff Kevin Tolson since no Democrat or other candidate filed to run in November’s general election.

Michael Belk

The runoff, which drew heightened attention due to its competitive nature and endorsements on both sides, highlighted a contrast between Belk’s administrative background and Breeden’s grassroots appeal as a former street-level officer.

In the last week of the campaign, Breeden reassured the public in a Facebook video that he had no plans for personnel changes at the sheriff’s office. He also said he did not plan to bring one person with him.

“I am not replacing anyone, and I have no desire for turnover at that place. None,” Breeden said.

Late Tuesday, Belk issued a statement online, thanking his supporters. “It has been an adventure for sure!” he wrote on Facebook. “I am so grateful for all of the people I have had the chance to meet, those who have rallied for me every step of the way, and those who have worked so hard with me through this runoff. I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Rock Hill.”

Breeden’s win came two weeks after no one in a five-person contest secured a majority of the votes. In that race, Belk was the top vote getter while Breeden came in second.

The unexpected runoff was triggered earlier in the election cycle when Sheriff Tolson withdrew his candidacy for re-election, prompting a last-hour entry by his wife Beth Bryant Tolson and subsequent calls for the reopening of candidate filings by local Republicans.

Raised in South Charlotte, Breeden campaigned on service, dedication, and community values. His background represents those values. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving in Okinawa and embassies in Tunisia, Syria, Algeria, and Honduras, which he said instilled in him a deep sense of duty.

See also  Belk, Breeden Headed to Runoff in York Sheriff’s Race; Solicitor Re-Elected

After his Marine service, Breeden joined the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, then the Rock Hill Police Department in 1995. Rising through the ranks, he ultimately became a lieutenant and served on the SWAT team for 25 years. He retired in 2022.

During a brief post-retirement, Breeden continued to serve through Inspiration Ministries in Indian Land, SC. He is a husband to Brooke Lessmeister Breeden, a father of three, and maintains a strong faith in Jesus Christ, guiding his values and character, according to a campaign profile.

Breeden emphasized several key points in his campaign and responses to The Fort Mill Sun’s questions:

Constitutional Sheriff Commitment: He is committed to being a Constitutional Sheriff, prioritizing the interests of York County citizens over outside agencies.

Public Safety Focus: He plans to focus on tackling violent crime, drug trafficking, and property crimes. He intends to utilize data-driven modules like Compstat or Prostar to target enforcement efforts effectively.

Relationship Building: Breeden aims to strengthen relationships within York County and with neighboring jurisdictions to enhance overall safety and security.

Qualifications: He believes his leadership experience and established relationships within the county made him the most qualified candidate. He emphasizes the importance of inspiring leadership within the Sheriff’s Office.

First 100 Days Agenda: His immediate priorities include immersing himself in the Sheriff’s Office, building relationships with staff, and leveraging their expertise to address new challenges effectively.

Focus on Fort Mill: He plans to address the specific needs of Fort Mill and the entire county based on local concerns, avoiding generic national strategies. He intends to listen to residents and use enforcement measures to improve public safety, particularly focusing on traffic and crime issues near Charlotte.

Greg "Ricky Bobby" Rickabaugh has lived in the Fort Mill and York County community since 2006. He has covered the area while a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a freelance writer for The Fort Mill...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *