CHARLES TOWN — The three candidates competing for the seat of sheriff of Jefferson County all say that if elected they’ll work to want to grow and improve the department’s law enforcement capabilities.
Incumbent Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley, former sheriff Everett “Ed” Boober and retired deputy Earl Ballenger, are vying for the sheriff’s job in the upcoming election.
Boober served as chief of police in Ranson for nine years and Sheriff of Jefferson County from 2002 to 2008.
Shirley, a Democrat, has held the position of sheriff since 2009.
Ballenger, the field’s lone Republican, retired from the sheriff’s office in 2009 after 24 years of service. He began his career in the federal government working for the CIA for 15 years.
Both Boober and Ballenger say that, if elected, they will seek to add more deputies to the department.
Shirley said his four-year tenure has been marked by significant growth to the sheriff’s office.
“I have increased deputies from 24 to 27 full- and part- time and elevated the number of patrols in the community,” he said. “I’m most proud of my number one priority, which has been public safety.”
During his tenure, Shirley said he has increased the K-9 units from two to four and tripled the number of investigators from one to three.
“One of the investigators work drug enforcement, one works on property crime and one covers child abuse and neglect,” Shirley said.
Shirley said the drug enforcement investigator is a member of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.
One member has been assigned to the DEA drug enforcement and one member to the U.S. Marshal’s task force.
Shirley said he sends deputies to specialized training anytime the opportunity arises.
“Our K-9 deputy is now a master trainer. He is a certified instructor and can train other instructors,” Shirley said. “We have built a companion relationship with the public. When they come to this department, his or her concerns are discussed, recognized, and we help them try to find a resolution to their problems.”
Boober, a Democrat, said he would fill current vacancies to meet the calls of service and enhance the size of the investigative unit.
“If elected I will hire more people. I believe the department is currently understaffed. I would add deputies and staffing to meet the demands of the office,” he said.
Boober said he would make more use of the two four-wheelers in the Blue Ridge area.
“Folks are concerned about protection up there,” he said.
Boober said he is most proud of his collaboration with the Board of Education in working with educating children on dangers of drug and alcohol.
“We need to get more involved in that arena. We have no treatment programs in the county. I think we should attack it through the student population and their parents,” Boober said, adding he is running for sheriff again because he believes he hadn’t finished the job he started.
“There’s a lot more to do,” Boober said.
Ballenger said he wants to make the sheriff’s office more efficient and bring “a sense of respect back to law enforcement for employees and the county.”
“I want to make the office smoother. There are some pretty talented people on the force and I would like to enhance that talent and professionalism through training and education,” he said.
Ballenger also has plans to expand the sheriff’s department.
“I would like to be able to put more deputies on the street. I don’t think we have enough of them. There is a federal formula for the number of deputies based on population. Jefferson County should have 36 deputies,” said Ballenger, a lifelong resident of Jefferson County.
“All in all I think the sheriff’s department is pretty decent. I’m retired and have become bored. I just want something to do,” he said.