CHARLES TOWN – The Jefferson County Commission will soon begin the search for a replacement for former Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley following his resignation on Friday and his entering a guilty plea to a federal felony charge in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Commissioners had initially planned to allow the county’s Democratic Executive Committee to name three possible replacements from which they would choose a candidate to appoint until the 2014 elections, but they decided after consulting with the state attorney general to directly advertise the position and accept applications, said Commission President Dale Manuel.
“The County Commission will do the advertisement, and we will advertise it for two weeks through the usual legal ads and indicate that we are looking for applicants,” Manuel said, adding that they will move through the process in consultation with the attorney general’s office.
Manuel said state Code requires that the person selected be a registered Democrat. Shirley, a Democrat, defeated Republican Earl Ballenger in November, winning a second term. Shirley was sworn in for that term earlier this month.
Manuel said the selection process will begin after the two-week application period concludes.
“I want all the i’s to be dotted and the t’s to be crossed,” he said. “I want a transparent process, and I want everyone who is interested to have an opportunity to apply to be considered for the position of sheriff of Jefferson County.”
Chief of Staff Jesse Jones has taken over day-to-day management of the Sheriff’s Department until a replacement is named.
“He has the ability to keep the office running smoothly and provide a safe environment for Jefferson County,” Manuel said. “I feel really comfortable with him being there in the interim until we can appoint a replacement.”
Manuel said there is no formally established set of qualifications for the position and that under state law there can be two sheriffs — one to serve as chief of law enforcement and the other to serve as the county’s tax collector.
“No one has actually utilized that proposition,” he said.
Manuel said he hoped to see the position filled by the end of February.
“It shouldn’t be months,” he said. “I don’t think we should be without a sheriff for that long. We want to do a very thorough job, but we don’t want to leave the post open for a long period of time.”