PARKERSBURG - A job possibly up in the air when Wood County Sheriff-elect Ken Merritt takes office in January could be that of an administrator who was elected to Vienna City Council.
Steve Stephens, director of county confinement operations, was elected as the only non-incumbent to a city council seat in Vienna. His term begins in January.
Stephens was hired to the Wood County Sheriff's Office under Sheriff Jeff Sandy, who lost the general election this month.
"His position is not civil service," said Sandy. "However, based on the research in which was conducted by attorney John R. Teare Jr. with the West Virginia Sheriff's Association, (the new sheriff) would have to have just cause to remove him (Stephens) from that."
Among the political appointments Merritt can make are for chief law enforcement and chief tax collection deputies. Deputy sheriffs are civil service positions, but Stephens, a former police chief from Vienna, is not covered under civil service.
The sheriff-elect plans to study his appointments. Some changes will be made and some positions will remain as is, Merritt said.
"It needs addressed, and we just need to know exactly where we're at," Merritt said Monday.
Stephens was not aware if his position would be on the line but was assured by Sandy it would not be in jeopardy. He is worried about others he is in charge of and hopes the new sheriff will take into consideration their dedication and involvement in the department, Sandy said.
According to the handbook of county government elective offices assembled by the West Virginia Association of Counties, a state sheriff's duties include serving and executing all returns, notices and processes issued by the courts; acting as bailiff in court proceedings; enforcing court orders; administering transportation of prisoners; administering the financial matters of adults who are unable to do so for themselves; issuing licenses to citizens who apply for a concealed weapons permit; collecting all taxes and disbursing the money to the appropriate agencies; maintaining all tax records and enforcing payment of delinquent taxes.
The association was established in 1960 to bring about the rebirth of effective county government to the state.
Assistance of the sheriff in the performance of his or her duties can be law enforcement deputies, tax deputies and legal process deputies. Correctional officers may also be hired in counties with a county jail, according to the handbook.
"The people of Wood County would want to know," Merritt said of details surrounding the change in office.