PARKERSBURG - Former Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt of Waverly, a Republican, is running against incumbent Sheriff Jeff Sandy, a Democrat, for sheriff.
Merritt said he decided to throw his hat in the ring again on the urging of law enforcement and others in the community.
"I had been in the sheriff's office for three terms, 12 years and I was a county commissioner four years. I saw things happen after I left the sheriff's office; it just seemed like the department wasn't pulling together. There was dissension as shown when several deputies lost their jobs. I felt we had the best sheriff's department in West Virginia and I want to rebuild that trust," Merritt said. "In law enforcement you have to have trust. People came to me with their concerns, and that led me to make the decision to run again."
Challenges the sheriff will be facing in the future, Merritt said include rebuilding trust in the department. He said prescription drug abuse will also continue to be a growing concern.
Merritt served as sheriff for three terms from 1993-1997, 1997-2001 and 2005 to 2009. He was defeated by Sheriff Jeff Sandy.
Merritt served as county commissioner from 2001-2004 and prior to that spent more than 20 years as a conservation officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources from 1969-1990.
Sandy said the challenges the office will face include fraud and dealing with synthetic drugs.
"We are seeing an increase in international telemarketing fraud including telephone, the Internet and mail -currently it is costly Wood County citizens thousands of dollars," Sandy said, noting it includes fraudulent credit card applications, scams, orders for bogus merchandise. As for synthetic drug cases, Sandy said: "We are only at the tip of it, I just met with the U.S. Attorney's office and they said the worst of it hasn't even hit our area yet."
Sandy said since taking office he and his senior staff have worked to transform the office into a "highly modern, transparent, and professional organization." Sandy said the department has increased criminal investigations and responded to an additional 5,000 citizen requests from 2008 levels. "Our preventive work on protecting our citizens from various types of fraud has saved our citizens thousands of dollars. The RUOK program for senior citizens has saved the lives of two elderly," Sandy said.
Prior to becoming sheriff, Sandy was supervisory special agent for the Southern Judicial District of West Virginia from 1993 to 1998, and for the state from 1998 to 2001. In 2002, he managed over 100 investigators and support staff with a budget of over $43 million. In 2003, he volunteered to work in Iraq, receiving the Honor Award from the Secretary of Treasury and the Department of Defense Joint Services Achievement Medal for his work.