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Bill Blair to run for sheriff

March 25, 2006|By TARA REILLY

Downsville resident Bill Blair said he knew at the time of his hiring as a deputy sheriff in 1980 that he someday would seek the Washington County Sheriff's Department's top position.

So, over the years, he worked in the department's three divisions ? Detention Center, judicial and patrol ? and graduated from the three academies for each division.

"I wanted to learn as much as I could about the operations of the Sheriff's Department, what's expected out of every division ... and what they have to deal with day by day," Blair said.

On Friday, Blair, 51, filed to run for sheriff as a Republican.

He believes his 22-year career in law enforcement and his educational background in the field qualify him as a candidate.

The primary election is Sept. 12, and the general election is Nov. 7. Sheriff's Department Col. Douglas Mullendore, a Democrat; and Republicans Jon Galley, Western Correctional Institution warden, and Dan Seiler, Cops Inc. chief investigator, also are running.

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Blair retired from the Sheriff's Department in 1999 and now owns a general store and gun shop in Washington County.

He was a police officer for two years for the town of Williamsport before he worked for the Sheriff's Department.

Blair said he believes the department's biggest problem is retaining qualified employees, and he hopes to prevent large numbers from leaving.

"We need to retain the people we train," he said.

Sheriff's Department officials have said a main reason why deputies and Detention Center correctional officers leave is because of low pay.

When he worked for the department, Blair said he saw a number of qualified employees leave.

"There's too many to even stop and count," he said. "We've lost some really good people."

Blair said he also supports a central booking facility for area police officers and better radio equipment for police and emergency responders.

Blair said he also would like to assign patrol deputies to certain areas of the county, in order to build relationships with residents and business owners. The deputy would then patrol the same area while working his or her shift.

Under his proposal, he said a deputy would have firsthand knowledge of an area, and that residents would "trust that deputy because they know they can talk to them."

The sheriff earns an annual salary of $67,500. The salary for the sheriff was increased to $80,000 by the Maryland General Assembly this past session, according to published reports.

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