After weeks of determining the correct procedure for replacing a sheriff, Jefferson County Commissioners selected Peter Dougherty to fill the position until the next general election in 2014.
Dougherty, 60, has served on the county's Board of Education for nearly 25 years. He indicated after his selection that he will resign from that position. He has also tendered his paperwork to complete the retirement process from his job as senior policy advisor with the Department of Veteran Affairs.
He said that he is ready to step into his new role immediately.
The commissioners accepted applications from 16 candidates showing interest in the job, then narrowed their list to three. During open interviews, the commission met with Stephen Groh, Louis Brunswick and Dougherty where they asked questions on a variety of topics dealing with filling the sheriff position.
Each candidate was interviewed without the other two present and each was asked the same panel of questions.
Commissioners asked about how the candidates viewed the role of sheriff in both the law enforcement capacity and the treasurer capacity. A focus was placed on management skills.
Each of the candidates had ample time to expand on the answers to the questions posed and shared their prior experiences.
Brunswick, who currently serves as chief bailiff for the county, spent 25 years with the Charles Town Police Department, serving a short time as chief. He indicated that he has a good working relationship with both the law enforcement and the tax sides of the office. As for his management philosophy, Brunswick shared that he believes one needs to give respect to earn it.
Groh, who currently serves as assistant prosecuting attorney for Jefferson County, told commissioners that he also has a good relationship with the deputies. He focused much of his discussion on the legal aspect of the job, saying that the tax office runs efficiently under the current tax deputy.
All three candidates indicated that they did not have plans to make immediate changes in either the law or tax side of the sheriff's responsibilities.
"Both are good offices," Dougherty said. "I have no intention of taking out Jesse [Jones, who serves as chief deputy for law enforcement] or Teresa [Hendricks, chief tax deputy].
Dougherty said that his priorities will include thoroughly reviewing the structure of the offices as well as looking for ways to advance technology use.
In reference to a question about the need for more security in schools, Dougherty said that he does not believe that budget will ever allow for a full-time officer in each school; however, he hopes to work with the schools and develop a more significant presence of officers in and around schools.
When the five commissioners began open deliberations on which of the three candidates would be selected, Walt Pellish took the lead and indicated that he was looking for someone with more management experience. He then nominated Dougherty for the position.
Brunswick was also nominated, by Jane Tabb, who said that she believed he would help make a smooth transition. The vote between the two candidates was 3-2 with Pellish, Dale Manuel and Patsy Noland selecting Dougherty while Tabb and Lyn Widmyer voted for Brunswick.
Manuel, who currently serves as the commission president, called for a vote of confidence for Dougherty to secure a 5-0 vote. All five agreed with that vote.
Dougherty, a resident of Charles Town, said he plans to be a "coat and tie sheriff rather than a uniform sheriff." His first order of business will be to meet with his chief deputy as well as meet with tax deputies to evaluate the offices.