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Voters to Pick Candidates In County Sheriff Contest

April 26, 2012
By SHELLEY HANSON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

During the May 8 primary election, Hancock County voters will get to choose Republican and Democrat challengers for the sheriff's seat up for grabs in November.

Current Sheriff Mike White is term limited and instead is seeking election as a magistrate.

Democrat Ted Dragisich said he agrees with West Virginia's no texting while driving law. And he also said that cell phones should not be used at all while driving.

''I don't have a problem with that law. People have enough problems while driving without texting and driving. I don't like anything distracting me - you need to keep your eyes on the road,'' Dragisich said.

He noted much like the rest of the nation, illegal drug use and dealing is one of the county's top problems. He believes educating children at an early age is the best preventive medicine. Dragisich said when he was sheriff from 1985-92, he educated students of such dangers.

''We need to teach children about the dangers of drugs, bullying and strangers,'' Dragisich said.

And if elected sheriff, Dragisich said he plans to update residents on important crime-fighting matters via a department website that would be updated either weekly or monthly.

''They have a right to know what's happening ... '' Dragisich said.

Democrat Ken Thorn said he agrees with the state's new law against texting while driving, noting the practice is dangerous. And he believes his county's biggest crime problems are drugs, and crimes against people in general, such as burglaries and crimes against children and the elderly.

Thorn, who is Chester's police chief, said he is known for being an open and honest person, and he plans to remain that way if elected sheriff.

''I've based my life on honesty. ... There will definitely be no problem there,'' Thorn said.

Republican Ronald Haggerty Sr. said he agrees with West Virginia's new texting while driving ban.

''We should outlaw it as of today. ... We need to put a complete stop to it. There should be a federal law,'' Haggerty said.

He said illegal drugs are his county's No. 1 problem. And to combat that problem, as sheriff Haggerty would want more deputies to enforce related laws. Such a plan would take more funding, and Haggerty hopes the recent gas drilling activity will create it.

''But everything is about money. If we get more businesses, we will have more tax revenue - that's how government functions,'' Haggerty said.

Haggerty believes in being open with the public about crime issues. When law enforcement has a good relationship with the community, crime rates go down, he said.

''We need to know them on a first-name basis,'' Haggerty said, noting he served on the Weirton Police Department for 21 years.

Republican George Village said he also agrees with the state's ban on texting and driving. And the county's biggest crime problems are illegal drug dealing and use and robbery, he said. Village said he also hears many complaints about people speeding on ATVs and dirt bikes in populated areas.

''I just want to make the quality of life better and enforce the law,'' Village said, noting he ran for sheriff in 2004 and also was a Republican nominee for state Senate in 2006.

Village also wants residents to feel safe about giving tips or information to deputies to aid in investigations. To foster good relationships, if elected Village plans to hold town hall meetings. He also believes the $15,000 bonus pay the sheriff receives to also serve as county treasurer should be put into an emergency fund that could help residents in need pay their property taxes.

''When people are going through bad times, the money is there. Each case would have to be looked at carefully,'' Village said.

Republican Creston Kennedy agrees with the state's new ban on texting while driving and he plans to ''enforce that a lot.''

''I don't like to see people driving and texting,'' said Kennedy, a military policeman who served in Iraq from 2008-10. ''I plan to crack down on it.''

Kennedy believes illegal drugs are the county's No. 1 problem. He also wants to teach children bicycle safety and implement a DARE program in the county.

''I plan on opening a jail for 48-72 hour holds to cut down on Northern Regional Jail runs,'' Kennedy said, noting he would rather have jailers take suspects to the NRJ instead of making deputies take arrestees.

If elected, Kennedy said he would work with other law enforcement agencies in and around Hancock County. And he also believes in being open with the public.

''I also would like people to help me so I can help them. If I don't know what's going on, I can't fix it. The more active you are in the community, the more active the community is with you,'' he said.

Kennedy said he would like to take his community activity a step further. For example, if there is a snowstorm or some other weather event, he would pick up prescription medications for the elderly or disabled. He also would personally deliver water to those in need during waterline breaks.

Democrat Ralph Fletcher said he is in favor of the state's texting while driving ban. And if elected he would enforce it like any other law. Meanwhile, Fletcher believes illegal drug use is the county's top crime problem, especially since there are so many spin-off crimes that occur because of it. If elected, he plans to hire more deputies to help combat the problem. And he also believes in being open and honest with the residents about crime in the county.

''The public is part of the solution to combat crime. Without them being fully apprised, they can't be the tool they need to be to help us,'' Fletcher said.

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