In April, Mingo County's commission moved swiftly to replace Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot and killed outside the county courthouse. Days later, Crum's wife was appointed sheriff. She had no background in law enforcement, but apparently will serve as sheriff until an election is held next year.
"There's actually no provision in law for anyone to act as sheriff -- or any other county official -- so this placeholder designation gives a county commission some time," said Patti Hamilton, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, in an email. "The temporary appointee allows the commission the time to make a more considered decision on who will be appointed to the position, if they so choose."
The new law also will apply to circuit clerk appointments -- though the chief circuit judge makes that call.
Clendening said county commissions throughout the state supported the change.
"It ensures the continuity of government," she said. "It keeps the office up and running. It's a safety net."
Carper said the new law also would make appointments of elected officials to fill vacancies more transparent. The Kanawha County Commission plans to interview future applicants for such positions in public. Carper expects other commissions to follow suit.
"Under the new system, I think you'll get better candidates," Carper said. "When you're appointing someone to such an important office, the public absolutely should be able to weigh in on the decision."
The bill signed by Tomblin last week also amends unexpired term election provisions for statewide constitutional officers, circuit judges, Supreme Court Justices, state senators and House members. The legislation requires the use of regularly scheduled primary and general elections, reducing the number and expense of special elections.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.