WINFIELD, W.Va. --All three candidates for Putnam County sheriff -- Republicans Steve Deweese and Rick Parsons and Democrat Bud Lett -- said the county's biggest concern is prescription drug abuse in a conversation with Gazette editors on Thursday.
Deweese, of Scott Depot, ended his career as a Putnam deputy sheriff in May last year to run for sheriff. He said his experience within the department gives him an edge over his opposition.
Parsons, of Hurricane, was a Charleston police officer for 27 years.
Both men touted their military experience and said it gave them leadership skills, which would help them as sheriff.
Lett, of Fraziers Bottom, is a former West Virginia State Trooper and state and federal DEA agent. He is currently the police chief in Kenova.
The three said manpower, education and prevention tactics would be necessary to tackle the prescription abuse epidemic.
Deweese said that, even though he knows there is a staffing shortage across the country, he'd like to increase the number of officers on the county's drug task force.
The candidates said a larger emphasis needs to be placed in the school system on drug use and prevention.
Parsons said he wants to bring a K-9 unit back to help get drugs off the streets.
"We need drug dogs back in Putnam County. We used to have three and they're not there anymore," he said. "We don't need just three drug dogs, we need a dozen of them if 90 percent of our crime in Putnam County is drugs."
Lett said education is key to prevention -- especially educating parents. He noted that, while deputies can put users and abusers in jail, there needs to be a statewide initiative to fund more treatment facilities.
The sheriff's office is mainly responsible for law enforcement, the county Tax Department and serving papers for the courts.
All three candidates said they would ask Chief Tax Deputy Rob Fewell, who has been in the position for 17 years, not to retire. Fewell has said he intends to retire soon.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.