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Veteran law enforcement officers vie for Berkeley County sheriff's post

October 14, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Both men asking Berkeley County voters to support them on Nov. 4 to be the county's next sheriff tout their many years of experience.

Carlton "Cootsie" DeHaven, 57, of 194 Dinali Drive, said he worked as a law enforcement officer for the Martinsburg Police Department and the sheriff's department for a total of about 16 years. The Republican Party's nominee also mentioned his years as a Berkeley County magistrate and work in legal research.

"With having 23 deputies with less than two years experience, that's where that (judicial background) would be very, very important to that young department," DeHaven said. "I know what the courts are looking for. I know what the prosecutor needs for completed convictions and arrests."

Kenneth M. "Kenny" Lemaster Jr., 52, of Martinsburg, said he has worked with the sheriff's department for more than 30 years, including experience running the law enforcement division as chief deputy for the last eight.

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"A lot of the programming... that we have in place now is stuff that I have helped create or come with the idea of how to do in order to make the department run more efficient," Lemaster said.

Lemaster said any pay raises to help reduce turnover and become more competitive with other police departments will have to come through the county commission's budgetary process.

"I come from ranks and I've lived like these deputies lived," Lemaster said. "So I know what they go through. A lot of times I question how they survive on what they do make. And most of them have second jobs, and most of their spouses work."

DeHaven said many of the deputies who have left the department did so because of disciplinary action ultimatums. He believes he could improve morale and as a result, improve retention through scheduling, streamlining paperwork and simply being appreciative of deputies' work.

"It's just an accumulation of a lot of little things ... I've been in the trenches and I've been around when morale is not very good, so I know the outcome of it," DeHaven said.

Lemaster said "pride in the department" has helped keep officers with the department, which has one of the area's lowest starting salaries and relatively costly insurance coverage.

"We've got to come up with innovative ways to combat it," Lemaster said.

DeHaven said the departments' service should be prioritized when budgets are tight.

"It's nice to do a lot of public relations things out in the community ... I believe in that ... but under today's times and the financial strains that the county's under, you have to say 'what's the most important thing that I can do for Berkeley County to make it a safer place to live' and you have step up to the plate and make those choices."

According to campaign finance reports filed last month, Lemaster has spent $15,603 in his campaign, which included a primary election race with three other Democratic candidates in the spring.

DeHaven, who was not opposed in the Republican primary, reported spending $9,515 last month.

The Berkeley County sheriff is elected to a four-year term and receives a salary of $44,880.

Current Sheriff Randy Smith has served two terms and is ineligible to run again.

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