PARKERSBURG - Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt said Monday he hates to see Chief Deputy Shawn Graham go but is confident in the man who will replace him.
Merritt introduced Capt. M.F. Smith Monday as the department's next chief deputy. Smith, a 25-year veteran of the department, will be sworn in Aug. 1, the day after Graham leaves to become chief of the Williamstown Police Department.
"Capt. Smith is the type that you look for for your whole career," Merritt said. "If something needs to be taken care of ... all he has to do is know about it and it's done."
Wood County Sheriff’s Capt. M.F. Smith, left, and Sheriff Ken Merritt pose for a picture in the sheriff’s department conference room Monday after Merritt announced Smith will take over as chief deputy on Aug. 1. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
Smith is the firearms instructor for the department and earned a place in the Glock Firearms Hall of Fame in 2010 in the Amateur Guardian category based on his performance at a shooting event.
Over the course of his career, he's served as a road patrol commander, a member of the S.W.A.T. team and a member of the Parkersburg Narcotics and Aggressive Crime Enforcement Task Force.
Merritt asked Smith to be the next chief deputy last week, after he learned of Graham's impending departure.
"It was a bit of a surprise, but I did appreciate the opportunity to take over the chief's position," Smith said.
Smith said his main goal as chief deputy will be to "make the sheriff's office as good as we can."
Graham said the decision to leave the sheriff's department was a difficult one, even after Merritt gave his blessing. Knowing Smith will fill his shoes makes it an easier transition, he said.
"He is very well-respected among the men," Graham said. "He's a great choice for my replacement as chief deputy."
The chief deputy oversees the entire department, scheduling day and night shifts, making sure court coverage is provided and dealing with deputies as well as civilian employees.
"There are a lot of responsibilities, almost too numerous to go into," Graham said. "You're not a very good chief if you don't depend (on others) and delegate your authority."
Graham said Smith was one of the people he has depended on during his tenure as chief deputy. Both men and Merritt noted they will still be working together even after Graham moves to the Williamstown department.
"If we need something from Williamstown, it's there," and vice versa, Merritt said.