FLATWOODS, W.Va. -- In a large hotel conference room in Braxton County, 23 county sheriffs and several chief tax deputies have their eyes riveted to the speaker up front, straining to hear and taking notes.
If it looks like they're in school, it's because they are.
"We call it the New Sheriff School," said Rudi Raynes-Kidder, executive director of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association.
Every four years, the Sheriffs Association holds the orientation and training seminar to give a new crop of sheriffs some background and training for their new jobs. "You've got the old guns coming to teach the new guns," Raynes-Kidder said Tuesday.
Because sheriffs in West Virginia are limited to two four-year terms, some turnover is guaranteed every election cycle. Thirty-five new sheriffs took office this month, 23 of whom came to the sheriffs school in Flatwoods.
"It's a great overview," said Steve Deweese, newly elected sheriff in Putnam County. "There's a lot of stuff I've learned in the 2 1/2 days I've been here."
The course began Sunday with a history lesson and general overview of a sheriff's responsibilities. Raynes-Kidder said the sheriff's primary job is to collect county taxes, but sheriffs must also provide courthouse security, provide law enforcement services in their counties and create and administer their own budgets.
Class continued Monday and Tuesday with specific information on everything from how to work with local judges to hiring employees, preparing budgets, responsibilities of tax collection and training deputies. Sheriffs even got a primer on dealing with the media presented by Raynes-Kidder, who is a former television news reporter.
"These guys will put their lives on the line to protect someone they don't know, but if you put them in front of a camera they're scared to death," she said. Raynes-Kidder said she advised new sheriffs that they are best served by being open with reporters.
Raynes-Kidder said a law enforcement background isn't required to be elected to the office of sheriff, although most successful candidates for the office come from a police background.