CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fighting the epidemic of prescription drug abuse is the top priority for both candidates running for sheriff in Putnam County. They told Gazette editors Monday that's what most crimes can be traced back to.
Steve Deweese, a Republican, and Bud Lett, a Democrat, would increase the size of the county's drug task force, which has three officers.
"I'd draw from some local departments inside the county and build back the task force like it was when I was supervisor," said Lett, a former federal Drug Enforcement Administration officer and State Police trooper who is now chief of the Kenova Police Department. "We had six men, at one time."
As a DEA agent supervising drug task forces, Lett came to Putnam County and helped restore federal grant money for the county's program in the 1990s, he said.
Deweese, who retired earlier this year to run for sheriff after serving 21 years as a Putnam County sheriff's deputy, believes more officers in county high schools and a drug tip line answered by a deputy, rather than a voice recording, is also necessary.
"The biggest thing is increasing the amount of the drug task officers -- they need some help," Deweese said.
Also, "With the tip line, right now ... it goes right to an answering machine. ... What if you call the tip line on a Friday with good information [and it's not checked until Monday]?"
Neither candidate said he would favor a law requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, a cold medicine that is a major ingredient in methamphetamine. The candidates said that would be too much of a hardship on law-abiding citizens, and that new pseudoephedrine tracking efforts were already having an impact on meth.
Both candidates, who grew up in Putnam County, said their extensive knowledge of the county would help increase needed patrols in rural areas.