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Woodyard named sheriff

The Wood County Commission appointed Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard as the next sheriff after interviewing five candidates during a special meeting Wednesday. Following a short executive session, commissioners picked Woodyard. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Rick Woodyard will be the next sheriff of Wood County.

The Wood County Commission named Woodyard, who is the county 911 director, during a special meeting Wednesday when it interviewed the five candidates vying for the position.

“I am humbled,” Woodyard said Wednesday after being selected.

Woodyard, a former chief deputy, said he appreciated the tremendous amount of support he has received from the community during the selection process.

Officials cited Woodyard’s years of experience with the department and in the county in key leadership roles as the deciding factor in his appointment.

”On Dec. 1, we have to have a sheriff,” Commission President Blair Couch said. ”We have an existing employee in the county in a leadership position with a massive amount of sheriff’s department background, 44 years as an employee of Wood County.”

Sheriff Steve Stephens announced his retirement last week, effective Wednesday, Dec. 1, after being named in a number of lawsuits alleging inappropriate behavior as well as receiving a vote of no confidence from the Wood County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Commissioners interviewed Woodyard, Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, Family Court Bailiff/former Chief Deputy Charlie Johnson, retired Wood County Deputy and current Wirt County Chief Deputy Gary “Mike” Deem and former corrections officer-reserve deputy and bailiff Henry “Bud” Williams.

Officials talked to the candidates about their experience, how they would approach the job of sheriff, working with deputies in the department, handling internal issues, how they would handle the work of the sheriff’s tax office and recruitment and retention of deputies, among other issues.

Woodyard said his aspirations have been to become sheriff.

“It has been a life goal,” he said.

He ran against Stephens in the 2016 Republican primary and lost by only 270 votes.

Woodyard has worked for the county for 44 years with 37 of those with the sheriff’s department and the other seven as the 911 director.

He first came to the department in 1977 at the age of 19 and did patrol duty and worked at the county jail. As a deputy, he rose through the ranks to assume a number of leadership roles in the department. Woodyard supervised the patrol deputies, worked in the detective bureau and worked with the prosecutor’s office. He also has served as chief deputy and executive deputy.

He was involved with the Parkersburg-Wood County Violent Crimes and Narcotics Task Force for 11 years.

”Since 1982, I have been a supervisor or in a managerial position,” Woodyard said.

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo asked about how he would work with the people in the department.

”Those are some highly trained and educated individuals down there,” Woodyard said. ”They know their job.”

He wants to be able to “empower” employees to do their jobs.

”They also have to know that their superiors have their backs,” Woodyard said. ”If you go out there and make the best decision on the best knowledge you have, they have the support of the leadership.

”We all make mistakes, but if you go out there and do your job at the best of your ability and knowledge, they will have the support of their leadership.”

Woodyard said he has worked with most of the people in the department and they know him. On his first day, he plans to bring together the senior staff and make plans for the department to succeed.

”One guy can’t do it,” he said. ”It has to be a group effort.”

He plans to run for sheriff in 2022.

Woodyard said he will do the job the best he can so the people will elect him to do it next year.

”I am a lead from the front, not behind, kind of person,” he said.

After the interviews, the commission went into executive session. Couch and Colombo voted to approve Woodyard’s appointment while Commissioner Bob Tebay abstained.

”My reason for abstaining is I think we had very qualified candidates and I hate to pick one over the other,” Tebay said.

Woodyard will remain in an “oversight” position over the 911 center, officials said, adding there are other counties where the sheriff does that and there is a good team in place there so operations will not be impacted.

A special commission meeting will be held Wednesday to swear Woodyard into office.

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