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York Co. Councilman pleads guilty to DWI, seeks work

York County Councilman Eric Winstead has pleaded guilty and paid a $1,022 fine for his December drunken driving arrest.

Winstead, who represents District 3, covering much of western York County, pleaded guilty to a first-offense driving under the influence - with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.10 but less than 0.16 - on Jan. 13 in the Bethel / Kings Mountain Magistrate Court.

"I feel good about having that part behind me," Winstead said Wednesday. "As behind me as it gets."

Winstead is completing a mandatory program at Keystone Substance Abuse Services and has lost his driver's license for six months, but he recently got a provisional license. Winstead also was charged with driving with an open container of beer or wine, but that charge was dropped.

According to a York County Sheriff's Office report:

Around midnight Dec. 16, a deputy pulled Winstead over after noticing his vehicle was swerving.

Winstead was riding with an empty and open Crown Royal whiskey bottle in the passenger seat.

He failed road sobriety tests, with a blood alcohol level of 0.11 - above the legal limit of 0.08.

Winstead, a chaplain at Hospice Care of South Carolina at the time, was driving back from an open house for a new location in Fairfield County when he was pulled over.

He has no prior criminal history in South Carolina, state records show.

His driving record for the past 10 years lists one speeding violation of 10 mph or less.

Winstead's court date had been set for later this month, but he moved it up, according to court records.

At a Dec. 26 York County Council meeting, Winstead apologized to the public and his family and said he wouldn't comment on the matter further.

Following Winstead's arrest, Glenn McCall, chairman of the York County Republican Party, said he would call together the party's executive committee to discuss whether it would continue supporting Winstead or ask him to step down.

McCall decided not to call the meeting after talking with precinct officers in Winstead's district and other party leaders.

"I talked with folks on the phone and the consensus was, since he's up for re-election, see what the voters think," McCall said Wednesday.

"We're just going to let the voters decide, if he decides to run again."

Winstead said he wasn't sure if he would run again. He'd have to wait to see whether his employment situation would allow it.

Following his arrest, Winstead was suspended from his chaplain's post with Hospice Care of South Carolina. He recently resigned that position.

Winstead said he has been offered several sales jobs, and soon might start working at a cemetery helping with sales. Odd jobs and other "secular" positions are what he'll focus on for the time being, he said.

"I'm harder on me than anybody else is going to be," he said. "I don't see myself looking for a pastoral type job any time soon."

Winstead said he'll continue to be open about what happened to him and would welcome an opportunity to share his experience, if it will help others.

"However God wants to use this," he said, " I'm more than willing to let him use it."

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