CHARLES TOWN – Peter Dougherty was named the sheriff of Jefferson County Tuesday in a 3-2 County Commission vote.
Dougherty, currently the director of homeless veterans programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, has served on the Jefferson County Board of Education for 25 years.
He will resign both of those posts in order to serve as sheriff.
Following its vote to appoint him, the commission also gave Dougherty — who also served as a local magistrate from 1977 to 1983 — a 5-0 vote of confidence.
Tuesday’s special meeting was called by commissioners after they selected three people to interview from among 16 candidates for the position – Dougherty, Jefferson County chief bailiff Louis Brunswick and assistant prosecutor Stephen Groh.
Dougherty was nominated by Commissioner Walt Pellish. He received votes from commissioners Pellish, Dale Manuel and Patsy Noland. Commissioners Lyn Widmyer and Jane Tabb cast votes for Brunswick, a former acting chief of the Charles Town Police Department.
Groh did not receive a nomination after his interview.
Dougherty says he will take a less active hand in the operations of the Sheriff’s Department than did Robert “Bobby” Shirley, who resigned in January and pleaded guilty to federal charges.
“I’m planning not to be a uniformed sheriff as much as I am a coat and blazer sheriff. I think my job is to run the department,” said Dougherty, adding that he would allow Jesse Jones to continue his role as chief deputy.
“Obviously, as sheriff, you have power to arrest … and keep the peace, but my job is to be an administrator not to be a patrol deputy,” he said. “The roll of the sheriff, it seems to me at this time, is not to come in and to be the chief deputy.”
Dougherty said his first task will be to become familiar with operations at the department. “Now what I’m going to do is start spending some time in the office with the deputies, and with the chief deputy in particular,” he said.
He said he plans to run for re-election in 2014, when his term will expire.
In related news, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued an opinion Tuesday on whether Earl Ballenger – who ran as the Republican candidate for sheriff in the 2012 election but changed his party affiliation to Democrat soon afterwards – would be an eligible candidate.
Morrisey said Ballenger, who lost to Shirley by just over 400 votes, would have been eligible since there is no explicit requirement for an appointee to have been a member of the same party as the individual whose vacancy he or she is filling for any period of time prior to the appointment.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Grove had asked Morrisey for the opinion based on concerns that the requirement that a candidate be a member of the party under which he or she runs for at least 60 days before a primary election might apply in this case.