Fanning appoints 4 magistrates in Fairfield

Follows Questions About Chester Appointments

WINNSBORO – Senator Mike Fanning announced on Tuesday the appointment of four new magistrates for Fairfield County – Jannita Gaston, Danielle Miller, Katina Capers-Washington and Vannessa Hollins. They will join Magistrate Russell Feaster, appointed by Fanning last year, and Chief Magistrate Paul Swearingen.

The new magistrates replace longtime magistrates William Robinson, Johnny DeWeese, Will Pope, who retired April 30, and Carol Tolen who retired in January.

Robinson and DeWeese received letters from Fanning stating that they would not be reappointed.

“Wednesday, May 22, will mark a fresh start…a new day…and a new court here in Fairfield County,” Fanning said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

The turnover of Fairfield’s magistrates followed questions asked last week by a Charlotte television station after it learned that Fanning was replacing all but one of five sitting magistrates in Chester County.

“Only Chief Magistrate Angel Underwood is being recommended for reappointment to another four-year term,” the station noted. “Underwood is the wife of Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood who was just indicted on multiple criminal charges.”

The station questioned why four qualified and long-term magistrates were being put out of jobs, noting that, “Several people had brought the issue to Channel 9 because Fanning is close to the Underwood family.”

Fanning said he is making the process of choosing magistrates “more open and transparent than it used to be.”

Fanning said he advertised the positions and that over 40 individuals expressed interest in the position and dozens applied. In order to insure an unbiased review, Fanning said he assembled a team of current or former magistrates from surrounding counties – to evaluate applications, interview finalists and recommend for appointment. The names of members of the review committee have not been made public.

Fanning, who represents part of York County and all of Chester and Fairfield counties, has been passionate in postings on Facebook about his support for Alex Underwood.

“This is the time to stand behind the man who would lay down his life for us all. This is the time to stand behind the man you voted for. This is the time to stand behind our Sheriff Alex Underwood.” Fanning posted.

The Voice has been unable to contact Fanning regarding the Fairfield County appointments. He did release the following information about the new magistrates:

Jannita Gaston, a Winnsboro resident, is a graduate of Benedict College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Gaston has served in corrections and law enforcement for over forty years as a correctional officer, deputy warden of administration, warden and regional director. During her career as an administrative manager with the state of South Carolina, she worked in all facets of correctional operations. She currently serves on the Fairfield Behavioral Health Service Board.

Danielle Miller is a lifelong resident of Fairfield County and is a graduate of Winthrop University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and creative writing. She has worked as a paralegal and also obtained certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator. She has served on the Fairfield County School Board and currently serves as chair of the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce.

Katina Capers-Washington is a resident of Winnsboro and a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and Webster University. She worked five years during college as a paralegal. She was a school counselor for the Newberry School District for seven years. Capers-Washington and her husband Carmen have established a scholarship for students of Fairfield Central High School majoring in business administration or culinary arts.

Vannessa Hollins, a lifelong Fairfield resident, is a 1991 graduate of Midlands Technical College where she earned Associates and Bachelor degrees in Criminal Justice Administration. She also earned a Master’s degree of Public Administration at Bellevue University. In 2001, Hollins earned her Summary Court Judges Certification from the SC Criminal Justice Academy/SC Court Administration. Judge Hollins has served as a Municipal Court Judge for the Town of Winnsboro and is a director of her local non-profit, Chameleon Inspirations Learning Center, in Winnsboro.


  1. Randy Bright says

    There are way too many unanswered questions to the Great Magistrate Upheaval. Perhaps the “transparancy” part will kick in after Sen. Fanning returns The Voice’s call and agrees to an interview.

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