W.Va. Sheriffs’ Association Pushes Term Limit Amendment - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

W.Va. Sheriffs’ Association Pushes Term Limit Amendment

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The West Virginia Sheriffs' Association has been hoping to simplify the only constitutional amendment slated for ballots in the state in a few weeks.

"If you vote no on Amendment 1, everything stays the same and sheriffs will be permitted to serve only two consecutive terms in office," said Rudi Raynes-Kidder, the executive director of the West Virginia Sheriffs' Association.

"If you vote yes, you agree the language should be removed and all sheriffs will be able to serve as long as the voters in their counties decide to vote them back into office, like any other county official."

Like most proposed amendments, the language can look a little tricky. And the Secretary of State's Office missed the deadline to notify the public via state newspapers about the upcoming ballot issue.

But Raynes-Kidder said the Secretary of State's Office distributed small cards at events throughout the state to spread the word about the amendment, and the office also set up a website dedicated to explaining the amendment.

Nearly 10,000 households have received information about the amendment in the mail, courtesy of the Sheriffs' Association, and Raynes-Kidder said decals and small cards have been distributed "all over the place," she said.

"Most people seem to be informed on the upcoming issue, and we've met no group with a strong opposition to it," Raynes-Kidder said Oct. 19.

She said sheriffs are the only county officials in the state with term limits, and West Virginia is one of three states with sheriff term limits.

"In West Virginia, we have what is called a ‘high sheriff,' which means the sheriff is the tax collector and the chief law enforcement officer," she said. "A big reason this law was written was to keep the powers of the sheriff in check."

She said sheriffs' offices are audited just like other businesses, and a civil service code outlines officers' duties, so she said checks and balances have been built into the system.

Raynes-Kidder said the term limits also discourage some qualified candidates from running for sheriff.

"Younger, qualified candidates for sheriff are being discouraged to run for sheriff because after only eight years of serving as sheriff, they are often too young to retire but too old to return to regular police work," she said. "It appears to be a demotion to go from being the chief law enforcement officer of the county to being another officer out working patrol, don't you think?"