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Woodyard takes oath to be Wood County Sheriff

Rick Woodyard took the oath as the next Wood County Sheriff on Wednesday morning from Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton during a ceremony at the Wood County Courthouse. Woodyard’s friends, Williamstown Police Chief Shawn Graham and Deputy Director of Infrastructure Protection in West Virginia/former Williamstown Police Chief William “Bill” Minear II, stood with him. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Rick Woodyard was sworn in as the new Wood County Sheriff on Wednesday morning.

Woodyard was administered the oath of office by Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton as numerous deputies and employees of the department, county officials, county employees, Woodyard’s family and friends as well as other supporters attended the ceremony at the Wood County Courthouse.

Williamstown Police Chief Shawn Graham then presented Woodyard with his Sheriff’s badge.

“This is a long time coming,” he said to the new sheriff.

Woodyard, who is also is 911 director, succeeds Steve Stephens, who announced his retirement last month effective Wednesday.

A number of the deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Department attended the swearing-in ceremony Wednesday for new Wood County Sheriff Rick Woodyard at the Wood County Courthouse. Woodyard succeeds Steve Stephens, who announced his retirement last month effective Wednesday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Stephens was recently named in lawsuits and had accusations from former and current deputies, alleging inappropriate behavior and more. Also, the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association recently held a vote of no confidence in his leadership from 27 members.

Woodyard was chosen from among five candidates by the Wood County Commission last week with officials citing his years of experience with the department — many in leadership roles — and his desire to keep the department moving forward.

He was “flattered” by the show of support.

Woodyard said over the last week since being named Sheriff he met with some of the officers and has an administrative plan put together for moving forward. He has also met with the department’s administrative staff and got up to date on things happening in the office and procedures in place now.

“I’m just trying to get schooled up on new procedures and protocols,” he said.

Woodyard has plans in place to meet with each individual officer, one on one, to discuss the career paths they want to take and the department as a whole.

“I am looking forward to meeting every one of them,” Woodyard said.

He also said he had a chance to meet with Stephens and they talked for over an hour-and-a-half about things he needed to be aware of in the department and other things going forward.

“I have known him for over 40 years … it was a smooth changeover,” he said.

Woodyard said he wants to fortify the department’s relationship with the commission and other agencies throughout the county.

“I like to build relationships,” he said. “We have a good one already with the commission. It is important we work together. It is important we bring the officers together.”

Woodyard said the community has a drug problem and overdose problems and he wants to take steps to involve the department in programs addressing that in the community. He served a number of years on the Parkersburg-Wood County Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force and knows what kind of impact drugs have had locally.

“One of my goals is reduce the amount of drugs coming into the community,” he said.

To do that he will work with the local police chiefs, many of whom he knows well.

“I think you will see a lot of joint missions with everyone working together,” Woodyard said. “One agency can’t solve this problem and they can’t stand alone with the criminal element we have right now coming in from out of the area.

“We have to join forces and work together. I think you will see that.”

A special election will be held in 2022 to fill the unexpired Sheriff’s term and Woodyard said he is planning to run.

While being administered his oath, Woodyard had William “Bill” Minear II, the Deputy Director of Infrastructure Protection in West Virginia and a former police chief in Williamstown, hold the Bible and Graham stood there with him.

Both men, he had known for years, were like brothers to him and he wanted them there when he took his oath.

Woodyard served as Graham’s training officer when he first joined the Wood County Sheriff’s Department in the late 1980s.

“I expected Rick to be the sheriff at some point,” Graham said. “I truly feel like it has been a long time coming.

“I am excited because I think he is going to do a great job for the deputies and the county. I am thrilled to see him get this opportunity.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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