“I’m humbled. I’m absolutely humbled by it and it’s still kind of settling in,” Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Chandra Gibbs said.

Gibbs now occupies the second-in-command position in the sheriff’s office. She was pinned on Nov. 28.

Sheriff Leroy Ravenell appointed her to the position following the Sept. 30 retirement of Dr. Kenny Kinsey, who served as chief deputy for a number of years.

Gibbs, 43, is the first Black woman to hold the position of chief deputy at the sheriff’s office.

“I think one of the things that guides us is that our leadership, of course, is not by gender, it’s not by race, it’s not by sexual orientation. When you look at leadership, it’s not lost on me that there are Black and brown girls that will be able to look at me and see somebody who looks like them and know that it’s possible,” she said.

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“This was not something I could’ve ever imagined as a little girl, but it’s not lost on me when I walk into rooms and little girls, their eyes light up because, ‘Hey, she looks like me’ and that it’s possible.”

Gibbs believes her role helps the department connect with the community even better.

“My mom’s quote is, ‘You kick the door down and you leave your footprint’ and I believe that this is the footprint that other Black and brown girls know. ‘I can follow the path and I can sit in the seat where we’re at the table making decisions,’” Gibbs said.

The only other woman to hold the chief deputy’s position at the sheriff’s office was the late Barbara Walters, who also once served as interim sheriff. She retired in 2012.

“There’s a great appreciation for the woman who has made this moment possible, and that’s not lost on me,” Gibbs said.

“I appreciate the fact that there’s a portion of this glass ceiling that was already broken and that was done definitely with her heels,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs came into the law enforcement field in 2003 as a victim’s advocate at the sheriff’s office.

She then took a job with the S.C. Highway Patrol as a civilian-based victim’s advocate.

From there, she worked at the S.C. Governor’s Office until she received a phone call from newly elected Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell.

In 2011, Ravenell hired her as the director of victims’ services.

Gibbs completed her basic Class III law enforcement training on June 15, 2018.

In 2021, Ravenell appointed Gibbs as chief of staff.

She completed the Class III Advanced requirements on June 29, 2022.

She became a Class I law enforcement officer this past Sept. 19.

Gibbs said she grew up between Germany and Oklahoma as an “Army brat,” due to her father’s military service.

She noted she has strong family ties to the Orangeburg area.

Gibbs came to Orangeburg to attend S.C. State University “and never left,” she said.

She originally went to college to become a school teacher, but majored in criminal justice and business administration.

She completed her undergraduate degree through Liberty University.

“There’s still that bulldog tenacity that you can only get at South Carolina State,” she said.

Gibbs is married to Bishop Morlon J. Gibbs. They co-pastor Life Empowerment: The Safe House church in North Charleston.

Gibbs and her husband have a “fur-kid” named Daisy, she said.

She said her Christian faith is vital to her.

“My faith in God and who he is to me – it’s personal, it’s not anything that I try to do or push on anyone else,” she said.

“But it’s what has guided me and it’s what’s kept me centered,” she added.

Gibbs recalled when she drove up to a Woodford residence on May 13, 2022 after 6-year-old Winston O’Conner Hunter was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting.

“I can remember very vividly saying, ‘God, you’re going to have to help me,’” she said.

She remembered another call she received early in her career as a victims’ advocate at the sheriff’s office.

It was her first time responding to a homicide.

“I watched a mom see her son being carried out from a homicide at a club. And what she did was grab my hand and in that moment, not knowing me, hours before she didn’t know who I was, that moment I became a part of her journey,” she said.

In her role as chief deputy, she listens to people’s concerns.

“If you listen with compassion and if you listen with the intent to be solution-driven in your service to them, with respect and integrity, those are the things that came from my victims’ services world – but those are things that we were taught as children that you treat a human being,” she said.

“Sometimes that may be the subject, other times it may be your victim, but they’re human and if you treat them with dignity, you treat them with respect, then you’ll garner the same,” she said.

Gibbs said she’s learned a lot about leadership from Ravenell.

“My role is to further the vision of Orangeburg County and to further the vision of Sheriff Leroy Ravenell,” she said.

“Our goals are to align with the sheriff’s motto, ‘We’re firm, we’re fair and we’re consistent,’” she said.

The agency’s vision, she said, is “To serve the community and do what we need to do to make sure that we’re addressing crime from all areas.”

“Will we ever eradicate crime? No. That’s not life. Are we working together to reduce it? Absolutely. Do we have all of the answers to it? Absolutely not,” she said.

“We have to be able to be creative in how we meet the needs of our community and making sure that our community does not see us as just the enforcement side, but there’s also that preventative side. There’s that awareness side. There’s community policing,” she said.

“What does that look like? We have our advisory board and we take on their considerations, what they’re feeling from the community,” she said.

During Gibbs’ pinning service, she recognized a special member of the Orangeburg community – her maternal grandmother, Annie Belle Brothers.

“It was a complete surprise,” to Brothers, Gibbs said.

She said her grandmother had a longtime dream of being a law enforcement officer and working in victims’ services, but she wasn’t able to go into the profession.

At the pinning service, Gibbs helped Ravenell make Brothers an honorary deputy.

“It was very, very, very special to be able to assist sheriff in making her an honorary deputy on the day of my pinning,” she said.

Others who were pinned to the command staff that day include Chief of Staff M. Shane McLendon and Captain of Patrol Trevor Clinton. Lt. Dujuan Council was transferred to special operations and Cpl. Robert Russell was promoted to the patrol division. In addition, the agency also swore in two new deputies: Michael Kowalski and John Jamerson.

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