PARKERSBURG - Wood County Sheriff-elect Ken Merritt told county commissioners he wanted to put to rest any rumors about his health and said he will be looking over changes made by Sheriff Jeff Sandy during his tenure, including personnel.
"There have been a lot of rumors, some about my health. I had a physical this summer and everything was fine," Merritt said, noting he has the records to prove it.
Merritt, 77, said he still has trouble with his left knee, which was injured during his military service in the Korean conflict.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County Sheriff-elect Ken Merritt met with county commissioners Thursday. Those elected Nov. 6 will take office Jan. 1.
"It still bothers me," he said.
Merritt said he is cancer free.
"I had some melanoma, but I had it removed," he said, indicating some brown spots on his face.
"I know some things have changed since I was in office four years ago. I haven't been down to the new building yet to see the new offices. It looks good from the outside. There are some things I'd like to know, personnel, equipment. Everybody doesn't think the same way, and I have some feelings about what the sheriff's office should be," Merritt said. "There are several things on the table I need to look at, and see where we're coming from. I will be talking to people, see who wants to stay, who doesn't."
"As long as everyone is above board, we will have no problems. I realize we may not agree on everything," Merritt said.
"I served as commissioner for two years while you were sheriff and four with Jeff as sheriff. I know your employees always came first with you, and we want you to hit the ground running come Jan. 1. Of course the biggest change is the new justice center," said commission President Blair Couch.
Merritt told the commissioners, in law enforcement, the main thing is trust.
"You have to have that trust in each other. You have to know you have that support," he said. "I will be looking at that now, how the deputies get along with each other and we will remedy any problems."
"Another thing that has changed is that the county doesn't have as much money as the last time you were in office. We had more money to work with back then. Things are slowing down. We've tried to hold the line, but coal severance funds, for example, will be lower," Commissioner Steve Gainer said. The county traditionally pays for new sheriff's cruisers with the coal severance funding.
"I understand that. But there are things the sheriff can do. In 1994 when I first came into office we had three cars with over 100,000 miles on them, all the rest had more. We started the program of replacing the cars year by year to bring the fleet up to date, and we reduced maintenance costs by a lot," Merritt said.
"Things change all the time and there will be challenges, but opportunities for you too. I wish you well and look forward to hearing your ideas," Commissioner Wayne Dunn said.
"Public safety is the goal and the sheriff is the point of the spear on that, so when you take office Jan. 1 it's important you hit the ground running," Couch said.
The sheriff-elect estimated he'd received 300 phone calls from people with ideas for the department.
Merritt said he will be taking a look at the current structure set up by Sandy, but said he's not necessarily in favor of following federal government agencies' examples.
"We'll take a look at it, and see what we can do. There may be some changes needed. There may be some things I'll ask myself why didn't I think of that. The main thing is I will be fair," he said.