The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 7, 2012

Raleigh sheriff secures second term

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Incumbent Democrat Steve Tanner has secured his second term as Raleigh County sheriff.

He defeated Republican opponent Stan Ellison by more than 1,600 votes — 14,588 to 12,949.

“We’re going to stay on the course we’re on,” Tanner said. “During a drug crisis, a true epidemic, this is not a time we need to start over. We need to keep the course and we need to keep the integrity and professionalism.”

The drug problem is not just an issue in Raleigh County or even in West Virginia, but all across the nation, Tanner said.

“It’s society’s issue. It’s bigger than trying to blame an individual agency or person.”

When Tanner took office nearly four years ago, he said Raleigh County began effectively campaigning for legislation to change laws that will control the prescription drug problem.

He said the real issue he sees is the Management of Intractable Pain, which is part of West Virginia State Code.

“It does more than give doctors authority to give drugs out; it practically mandates they give drugs out,” Tanner explained. “The doctors I’ve interviewed feel like they’ve been put in a corner that they must issue drugs. People have learned what to say to the doctors in order to get these drugs. We have to change that law.”

In addition to that item of legislation, Tanner is also actively working to track all prescription drugs, including the 7 percent of cash-only transactions that are not tracked through the current system.

“Most of the people severely addicted do not get their prescriptions through insurance.”

He said the current system tracks 93 percent of insurance transactions, but state and federal laws do not track cash transactions.

Tanner has been named head of a committee to help pass this legislation.

“Too often, we get confused and think we can arrest our way out of this situation and that’s not possible. We have to change the law to get the prescription drugs in place. I will push hard to get those laws changed.”

Tanner said school safety is also an important issue for the county. He plans to continue to have retired officers work in high schools to prevent bullying, drugs and weapons from being in a learning atmosphere.

He said he will also continue to work on truancy issues; he said since deputies began delivering truancy notices, there has been an 11 percent increase in school attendance.

“The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office is recognized as being one of the most advanced in the state. We’re extremely proud of the professionalism that the men and women show. We see all around us issues and concerns with other agencies, and we have had no such baggage. I think that’s due to strong leadership and the character of the individual deputies. We will continue with that.”

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In the race for five magistrate positions, incumbent Republican Steve Massie landed nearly 18 percent of the total votes, with more than 3,000 more votes than any of the other six candidates.

“I plan to continue to do what I’ve done over the last eight years,” Massie said. “I appreciate the support of Raleigh County. I plan to put the people of the county first. They’re my boss.”

The tallies for the other four magistrate positions were narrow, but Democratic incumbents Greg Tanner, Charles “Randy” Humphrey and Richard “Rick” Jones as well as newcomer Tomi Sue Peck all secured a seat.

Massie earned 16,878 votes; Tanner, 13,681; Peck, 13,531; Humphrey, 12,689; and Jones, 12,587.

Incumbent Democrat Mary Koontz Jennings was just shy of securing a spot with 12,399 votes. Republican John Stephen Mays received 11,957 votes.

Tanner said he plans to continue working hard and giving 100 percent. “I appreciate the voters’ confidence in me.”

Peck said she stayed at home with her family to find out the election results and she is very excited.

“I feel honored that citizens believe I can do a good job, and that’s what I intend to do,” Peck said. “I want to have an open office and be tough, but fair.”

Peck said when the time comes, she will resign from both her positions as Sophia Police chief and as a PRO officer at Independence High School.

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Current Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller, Democrat, ran unopposed and secured a total of 20,782 votes.

Drema Bias Evans, also a Democrat, also ran unopposed and will retain her position as Raleigh County assessor. She received 20,741 votes.

Democrat Chris Hall of Beckley ran unopposed for county surveyor and got exactly 20,000 votes.

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