WHEELING - The Ohio County sheriff's race in the May 8 primary election will pit Republican incumbent Pat Butler against retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer John Powell, while on the Democrat ticket, former sheriff Tom Burgoyne takes on former Wheeling police officer and current Ohio County Magistrate George Fahey.
- Butler is seeking re-election after serving as sheriff for the past four years. He points to prescription pill abuse and domestic violence as the top two crime problems in Ohio County and said his department is informing the county's youth in an effort to prevent the former.
His department also lends deputies to the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force and the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team, he said.
Butler said he is "absolutely, 100 percent" in favor of the recent texting and driving ban. When the legislation takes effect July 1, he added, his department will be fully prepared to spot the offense and enforce the law.
Butler also said he attends every crime watch meeting, and he wants to be as open as possible with the public regarding crimes in the community. Any information he did not make public in the past, he continued, was in the best interest of ongoing investigations.
Butler, 61, is in his 37th year in law enforcement. He was Ohio County chief deputy before being elected sheriff. He is a member of St. Michael's Parish.
- Powell, 52, of Wheeling is retired from the U.S. Navy and has worked in criminal investigations, drug interdiction operations in America and Europe and anti-terrorism operations. He also has experience as a SWAT team member and in dignitary protection and police operations management.
Powell said West Virginia's new ban on texting while driving is a "good idea."
"Too often we see people distracted when driving while texting," he said. "I have been using radios and telephones for years while driving, but I don't text. It distracts you from driving."
The two biggest crime issues in Ohio County are theft and drugs, Powell said.
He believes the sheriff's department needs to have a better relationship with the community.
"I believe people have a right to know what is going on in the sheriff's office," Powell said. "The sheriff works for the people - not himself. He is a representative of the people, and he should keep them informed of what is going on in their community."
- Burgoyne, 71, believes residents need to know when a crime happens in their neighborhood - he considers that principle to be "Criminal Justice 101."
"I was (sheriff) eight years, and we had an open-door policy, particularly with the media," said Burgoyne, who served as Ohio County sheriff from 2001-08 before stepping down due to term limits. "Whatever happens in that county from a crime standpoint has to be reported."
If Burgoyne is elected, one of the main issues he'll have to deal with is one that was hardly a blip on the radar when he left office four years ago - texting while driving. He said he would enforce this law as vigorously as possible.
In Burgoyne's view, the two biggest crime problems in Ohio County are narcotics abuse and domestic violence, two issues he said often go hand in hand.
"The economy hasn't helped," he said. "The fact that someone has an empty wallet adds to the domestic violence problem."
He believes the sheriff's department needs to devote more of its resources to the fight against drugs.
"We've got one deputy assigned to narcotics right now. We need to have two," he said.
Burgoyne holds a bachelor's degree in history from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, and he is a graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. He currently does private investigation work. He is a member of the board of directors at both Wheeling Hospital and the Greater Wheeling Homeless Coalition, the volunteer assistant athletic director for Wheeling Central Catholic High School, a member of St. Michael Catholic Church and a volunteer recruiter for Wheeling Jesuit University.
- Fahey, 66, supports the state Legislature's ban on texting and driving. He went on to say he would support a ban of any activities that can distract drivers, such as eating while driving.
Fahey said drug-related crimes and property theft are the two biggest problems facing Ohio County law enforcement. He said the construction of the East Wheeling sports field will stem drug activity in that area of the city after many of those structures are torn down, but added that he expects those involved in the drug trade to resume their activities elsewhere.
Theft of copper from abandoned homes is the most glaring form of property crime seen in the county, he said.
"First, people have to be notified they have a crime problem. By hiding it, that doesn't mean that we don't have one," Fahey said of his pledge to be open with Ohio County residents. He went on to say residents need to know of any illegal activity within their community, and that he was as open as possible with the public during his career in law enforcement.
Fahey, of Wheeling, retired as law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office. He also served as an Ohio County magistrate and Wheeling police officer. He is a member of Our Lady of Lebanon Church.