WILLIAMSON - “I’m a career lawman, not a career politician,” Mingo County Sheriff James Smith said, speaking of his plans for the future.
“With that being said; let me add that experience, knowledge, dedication, commitment and the ability to lead is what it takes to be a successful sheriff,” Smith said. “I am blessed to say I possess these traits and I pray I will be able to continue to use them to serve the residents of this county.”
Smith, a 15-plus-year veteran police officer who moved up through the ranks, was narrowly defeated for the office of sheriff in 2012 by the late Eugene Crum, who was shot and killed last April. He was then selected from among several applicants by the Mingo County Commission to fill that vacant slot in September of last year. Since that time, Smith has hit the ground running and has worked diligently to bring unity back to an office that only a few months ago, was a divided force.
“Our office has experienced setbacks and complications in the past, but I am proud to say these men that I call my co-workers and my brothers have stepped up to the plate and are moving this department in the right direction, creating a well-balanced team that is motivated to perform their jobs to the best of their ability,” the sheriff said.
“We were handed the opportunity to rebuild, restructure and reorganize the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department, and that is exactly what we did. Without this type of a team behind you, a sheriff is only one man standing alone.
“We are righting the wrongs in Mingo County so we can place the right foot forward. No matter which side of politics you may choose to be on, or whether you voted for me or against me, I will always treat you the right way, and so will the officers in the department. That is a promise.”
“I’m a working sheriff. The part of me that loves to serve the public and has done so for over 15 years has not - or will not change. There should always be more to this position then just sitting behind a desk. You should never ask or expect one of your officers to do something that you are not willing or able to do yourself,” Smith said. “You take an oath to protect and serve, and that’s what I’ve always done.”
Since assuming the role of sheriff, Smith has dedicated tremendous time and effort to acquiring much-needed equipment and supplies for his officers that allow them to work more efficiently and in a safe, timely manner.
“We are bringing this department up to par with those in other counties across the state,” Smith said. “These items were put on the back burner long enough. I listened to the men and took a hard look at what we needed the most, and I’m happy to say we’ve been able to acquire additions that are proving to be valuable assets.”
Two police cruisers, brush guards, state-of-the-art hand-held radios, crime scene kits and two additional officers have been added to the sheriff’s department over recent months, and applications for grants have been completed to purchase dash-cameras and radar detectors as well. The sheriff has also established a connection with a company that sells refurbished Army surplus supplies to law enforcement agencies at a discounted rate, which will result in substantial savings for the county. Drug testing of all sheriff’s department personnel is also now required several times a year, with no one being exempt.
Smith is a lifelong resident of Mingo County and speaks of the problems those who call it home face on a daily basis, and has plans in place to help alleviate these issues from the local communities. Drug problems and the safety of children are at the top of his list.
A number of active drug investigations are currently ongoing, with arrests expected in the near future. An officer from the sheriff’s office also serves on the U.S. 119 Task Force which, in itself, is extremely successful in the war against drugs.
Smith told the Daily News that he is well aware that in today’s changing world, there will never be such a thing as a “crime-free” county, but added that he has implemented scheduling that allows for great coverage for all three shifts. One subject of pride for the sheriff is that officers not only patrol school grounds and the surrounding areas during the day, but also perform “walk-throughs” inside the buildings to look for any suspicious activity and to become better acquainted with the students.
“This is something that we’ve started doing at our elementary schools, and we have full-time coverage by a police officer at both of our high schools,” Smith said. “I want these kids to know that police are there to help them and keep them safe. We’re the good guys. They can come to us for any problem they may have and we will do our best to help solve it.”
Community “town hall-type” meetings are also in Smith’s plans, as he spoke of the importance of sitting down with individuals who wish to air their complaints or suggestions, mentioning how important it is to have a good relationship with the public.
“Words are nice, but it’s a man’s actions that people will remember,” Smith said. “My office is here to serve the needs of the people, not vice-versa. It’s about public service - not personal gain.”
“Everyone in our office works as a team,” the sheriff said. “From our administrative assistants, Rhoda and Linette, to Dave Stratton that works hard to serve paperwork everyday and keeps us caught up on that end, to C.J. Sammons who serves the public’s needs when a love one passes away - to my Chief Field Deputy Joe Smith, who has done an awesome job and is hands-down, one of the best investigators I have ever worked with, to each and every one one of our deputies - we work together, not against one another. I would put this team up against any across this state and I’m confident we could hold our own.”
“That, my friends - is the key to success.”
Monday, Jan. 13, at 9 a.m., Sheriff Smith wants to invite all his family, friends and fellow residents to join him in the Mingo County Clerk’s office at 9 a.m. Monday as he officially files for the 2014 election as a candidate for the office he now holds.
“This is an important day for me, our department and for the county,” Smith said. “I ask for your continued trust and faith as we move our county forward and out from under the dark cloud that has been hovering overhead for far too long.”