CHARLES TOWN – Both of the candidates who were defeated in last year’s election for Jefferson County sheriff are now seeking to replace the man who beat them.
Democratic primary challenger Everett “Ed” Boober and then-Republican general election challenger Earl Ballenger have each asked the Jefferson County Commission to consider appointing them sheriff until the 2014 elections to replace Robert “Bobby” Shirley, who resigned last month in the face of a federal conviction for civil rights violations.
Boober and Ballenger are joined by eight other applicants, who applied for the job following a decision by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Grove, who both said state law requires commissioners to appoint a replacement for Shirley, who was charged in connection with the 2010 beating of since-convicted bank robber Mark Daniel Haines.
Seven of these have prior law enforcement experience.
Ballenger, a Harpers Ferry resident, lost to Shirley by just over 400 votes during the general election. He said he changed his party affiliation to Democrat shortly after the commission received Morrisey’s opinion and began formally accepting applications for sheriff.
“There were a lot of voters who came out for me and showed their support,” Ballenger said. “My motivation is still the same as when I ran my campaign. I still want the job, and I think I can do the job. So I threw my hat back in the ring this time.”
Ballenger served as a deputy with the sheriff’s department for 23 years, retiring with the rank of sergeant. He is also a former CIA information control officer and a U.S. Army veteran.
State law requires that the appointee be of the same political party as the individual who resigned the office, in this case, a Democrat. But Ballenger argues that his prior political affiliation should have little bearing on the county’s decision.
“I don’t know why the job requirements should have anything to do with party anyway, but if that is what is required, that’s fine,” Ballenger said. “Even though I ran as a Republican, I am not really about a political party. I’m more of a bipartisan type person.”
Ballenger said he hadn’t been registered with any party until prior to the 2012 election cycle, when members of the Republican Executive Committee approached him and asked him to become their candidate. He said he initially declined, but changed his mind over concerns about how the sheriff’s department was being run.
“I’d heard some things about the department that I didn’t really like, that it was kind of going downhill,” Ballenger said, adding he heard complaints of low morale. “I thought I could get it back on the right track.”
Ballenger said he would prioritize improving department morale and performance and rebuild relations with the general public.
Boober, a Charles Town resident, served two terms as sheriff from 2001 to 2008. Prior to that, he served as chief of the Ranson Police Department from 1988 to 1997 and as a police officer with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department from 1965 to 1986, retiring as a lieutenant. He is an Air Force veteran.
After completing his second term as sheriff in 2008, Boober worked as a private safety consultant and then as interim chief of the Shepherd University Police Department. He challenged Shirley in the 2012 Democratic Primary, but lost by a wide margin.
“Eight years did not allow me to do all the things to improve and upgrade the sheriff’s office, and there is a lot of work remaining to be done,” Boober said. “I would like to make the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office absolutely the best that it can be.”
“I have a sincere desire to get back to work and exert a positive influence to improve the image of Jefferson County,” Boober said “and of our law enforcement in particular. My heart is really in this. Positive leadership and building of morale are two of the necessary ingredients that are needed right now to improve the performance of the activities of the sheriff’s office.”
Other candidates include:
• Louis Brunswick, a Kearneysville resident and chief court bailiff at Jefferson County Circuit Court, challenged Shirley in the 2008 Democratic Primary, where he came in second, though more than 1,000 votes behind him. Prior to serving as a bailiff, he worked as a police officer with the Charles Town Police Department from 1973 to 1993, retiring as the acting police chief.
“I feel, with my knowledge and my background, that I’d make a good sheriff,” Brunswick said. “I’ve been in law enforcement basically all of my life. I’ve seen both sides: the court side and the police side.”
Brunswick said his work as chief bailiff gives him relevant management experience over a similar group of subordinates. “Number-wise it’s pretty close,” he said. “There are about 17 bailiffs and 22 deputies.”
He said he would make rebuilding relations with the public a top priority. “We have to get the citizens on board with the sheriff’s department. We have to get their trust back out there. I think that would be one of the first things to build back up.”
• Gerald Koogle, a Charles Town resident, also ran in the 2008 Democratic Primary, coming in just behind Brunswick. He served as a police officer with the Frederick City Police Department for 18 years, retiring as a supervisor and shift commander. He also became qualified as a bomb technician and served as a police academy instructor. He currently serves as a bailiff.
“I’ve got a great deal of experience with supervision that would be needed to run the sheriff’s department,” he said.
Koogle said he decided to send in his application, in part, because the appointment process offered an opportunity to become sheriff without becoming entangled in politics. He did say, however, that, if appointed, he would run for election in 2014 in order to ensure continuity of leadership at the department.
• Ronald Fletcher, who has served as a deputy since 2001 and was promoted to sergeant in 2008, said that his being appointed sheriff would ensure a smooth transition. Fletcher, a Charles Town resident, currently oversees 20 officers.
“I’ve always had an ambition, later on down the road, to run for sheriff anyway,” Fletcher said. “I’ve been around the department for 12 years. I like it, and I believe in it.”
Fletcher acknowledges that, at age 32, he is younger than many of the other candidates. “Some people might think that I’m a little too young, or that I haven’t had enough years in. Its time to look forward toward the future of the department, and get some new blood in.”
• Kenneth Mills, a Kearneysville resident, currently serves as a process server and home confinement officer. He served as a bailiff from 2000 to 2011, and as a deputy with the sheriff’s department from 1973 to 2000, retiring with the rank of lieutenant. Prior to that, he served as a police officer with the Charles Town and Ranson police departments from 1966 to 1973.
“I want to get back in to protect and serve the people a bit more before I quit,” Mills said. “I enjoy working in law enforcement, or with law enforcement.”
• Walter Smallwood, a Kearneysville resident, served as an officer with the Fairfax County Police Department from 1982 to 2007, retiring with the rank of second lieutenant. He worked three years as a plainclothes detective, and supervised up to 15 officers during his last nine years as an officer.
“The citizens deserve a good replacement,” Smallwood said. “I have a lot of experience, and I would do well here as a replacement.”
• Clifford “Gene” Taylor, a former Ranson police commissioner, has been employed since 2001 as a private security guard with a variety of security companies. He is also an Air National Guard veteran. He promises to decline tax-related pay if appointed.
• David Tabb, a Harpers Ferry resident and regular County Commission gadfly, has founded three businesses. He notes in his resume that he has a concealed carry license, and promises to decline all pay if appointed sheriff.
• Karen Starry Manuel-Gregoryk, a Charles Town resident, worked as a flight attendant and gate attendant for three major national airlines.