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Shirley, Watson vying for Jefferson County sheriff's post

October 13, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Do you want a sheriff who will battle crime gangs in the county or one who will engage community organizations for a more unified defense against crime?

Will a sheriff who will tap into the talent of local youth mean more to you, or do you want someone who puts a lot of emphasis on the Blue Ridge Mountain area, which has been plagued with crime problems over the years?

Those are some of the factors voters will have to weigh as they choose between Democrat Bobby Shirley and Republican Jay Watson for Jefferson County Sheriff in the Nov. 4 general election.

The four-year-term job pays $44,480 a year, although the pay can increase up to another $15,000 depending on how much delinquent property taxes a sheriff can collect.

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Current Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober cannot run again because he has served the maximum allowed two terms in office.

Watson

Because of tight budgets in county government, Watson, 54, of 505 S. Mildred St., Ranson, W.Va., has said he wants to reach out to community organizations like neighborhood watch groups to broaden the defense against crime.

Harpers Ferry, Summit Point, Shepherdstown, Blue Ridge Mountain and other areas of the county all have unique characteristics and needs, Watson said.

He said the sheriff's department will more effectively do its job if it engages with community organizations in different areas.

"Things run a lot smoother because the community understands the department and the department understands the community," Watson said.

Watson said he has also talked to Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools Susan Wall about tapping into the talent of local students to help the sheriff's department.

Students can be recruited to help do computer networking for the department or do studies, and could earn academic credit for their work, Watson said.

"You want to utilize the talents of the kids," said Watson, who has been president of Independent Fire Co. for seven years and has served as president of the Jefferson County Fire and Rescue Association, a group that represents the county's six fire departments and develops policy for them.

Watson said he also wants to address the problem of a growing volume of fast-moving commuter traffic on smaller county roads and wants to make sure the sheriff's tax office has the security it needs in handling large amounts of money.

Shirley

Shirley, 57, of 567 Hidden Hollow Drive, Kearneysville, W.Va., worked for 26 years in the sheriff's department and is now lead supervisor for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Advanced Training Center along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town. He also helped run security operations at local U.S. Coast Guard operations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown.

Shirley said the county continues to experience criminal gang activity. Besides MS-13, gang activity that has spread from Virginia, other groups have been in the county and Shirley said he wants more emphasis on identifying the problem before it manifests itself here.

"When you deal with gangs, you deal with firearms and drugs," Shirley said.

Shirley said he also wants to crack down on county residents who still have out-of-state car registrations and he also wants more police presence on Blue Ridge Mountain, where residents have complained about crime over the years.

A law enforcement substation recently opened on the mountain near Blue Ridge Elementary School, but Shirley said it is rarely used.

"One-third of the population lies east of the (Shenandoah) river. I plan on staffing that command center," Shirley said.

Shirley said he will work with the public on "whatever their needs are," and he wants to do all he can to improve the work environment for the department's deputies, who often have to struggle with high insurance costs and other high costs of living to stay in the area.

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