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Sgt. James Smith named new Mingo Co. sheriff

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

September 17, 2013

WILLIAMSON - After meeting with members of the public to ask for their input on who would be the best man for the job of Sheriff out of the four who applied and spending a good amount of time interviewing each of the applicants, the Mingo County Commission announced that Sgt. James Smith would become the new sheriff and would fill the position of former Sheriff Eugene Crum until an election is held in May of 2014.


A total of five people applied for the office of Sheriff, but one applicant stepped out of the running before the interview process began and their name was not released. The four remaining in the competition were Smith, Lt. Randy Hatfield, Dave Stratton and Chris Varney.


During the actual interview process in which the list of responsibilities of the position were identified, Varney asked to no longer be considered for the role as sheriff based on the reason that he felt he was not qualified as of this time. The decision to choose Smith was partly due to polling random individuals within the county to see who they wanted as their next sheriff. The feelings of the deputies were also considered, as they were asked to voice their opinion on whom they wanted to lead their department.


Smith, who has been a law enforcement officer for approximately 17 years and who was a candidate for the office of Sheriff in 2012, told the Williamson Daily that he is honored to be given this opportunity and is excited to assume the leadership role and begin serving the citizens of Mingo County as their sheriff.


“First of all, I want to say that I am blessed to work with a bunch of great guys who are seasoned law enforcement officers with a great deal of experience between them,” said Smith. “I want to see unity come to our office and I feel confident that I can help that happen. It’s important that these officers know this is their office, not mine. It’s we – not me.”


Smith relayed that the situations and circumstances that followed the tragic death of former Sheriff Eugene Crum separated the sheriff’s department, although it wasn’t intentional. The new sheriff stated that he wants to see his office come out from under the cloud that it’s been under for quite a while and once again flourish.


When asked if he planned to make any major changes in personnel after beginning his new job today, Smith replied by saying there were no changes planned in the immediate future, commenting that his officers were veterans and knew how to do their job. The question was also raised as to who he planned to name as his chief filed deputy and the sheriff said that Sgt. Joe Smith would fill that position, praising his abilities as an investigator.


“Joe is top of the line,” Smith stated. “He’s one of the best investigators, if not the best, that I’ve had the pleasure of working around. I’m sure he will do a great job in his new capacity.”


When asked about any promotions within the department. Smith said that those would not occur until after the results of the May, 2014 Primary election, and further disclosed that he does plan to run for office.


Smith spoke of the importance of getting back in the business of taking down the drug dealers who are running rampant in the county, and said it was time to see the drug epidemic come to a screeching halt that has for years, been choking our neighborhoods and claiming lives as it steadily grew in proportion.


“We’ve had a rough few months that followed Chief Crum’s death but we’re ready to get started back with our drug investigations,” said the Sheriff. “I have a solid relationship with members of the West Virginia State Police and other police agencies and due to this fact, I am confident that we can work together for the betterment of the county.”


Smith was asked as to what he thought had set him apart from the other two candidates that applied for the office of sheriff, and answered by saying he knew the deputies had faith in him and realized that he had their best interest at heart.


C. Michael Sparks, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, told the Daily News that he had personally polled the deputies to see who they wanted as their sheriff and the overwhelming, unanimous reply was for James Smith.


“The three most important questions that needed to be asked when considering who to hire for this job were as follows,” said Sparks. “First, who can fix the problems within the department, this office had been in turmoil since April. Secondly, who do the people of this county trust and who is their choice to fill the vacancy and last but certainly not least, who has the most experience and top qualifications. Keeping those objectives in mind, the commission knew that James Smith was the right choice.”


Smith is scheduled to be sworn in as Mingo County’s new Sheriff this morning at 10 a.m., in the County Commission Courtroom. The public is invited to attend.


Further details of the interview with Smith will be published in Wednesday’s edition of the Williamson Daily News.