Three candidates for Berkeley County Sheriff will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot and a fourth is running as an official write-in.
Republicans James W. Barbour III of Martinsburg, Carlton “Cootsie” DeHaven of Martinsburg and John Orem of Inwood, W.Va., are vying to unseat Democratic incumbent Kenneth “Kenny” Lemaster of Martinsburg in an unusually crowded race.
Barbour, 45, defeated Orem, 44, in the May primary election to win the Republican Party’s nomination for sheriff, but Orem decided to re-enter the race as an official write-in candidate about two weeks later.
Lemaster, 56, fended off two other Democratic challengers in the May election in his bid for a second, four-year term.
DeHaven, 61, filed to run for sheriff in the general election as an independent, “third party” candidate this summer.
DeHaven said he originally decided not to file for office because of “a family crisis.” DeHaven said his wife’s father died at the time of the regular candidacy filing period early this year and she needed his support.
“I felt it was my obligation to ... support her through a very sad time in her life,” DeHaven said.
DeHaven, a retired police officer, cited work experience with the Martinsburg Police Department and Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office and as a state magistrate judge in Berkeley County, as qualifications to run for sheriff.
DeHaven, who currently works as a security officer, said if elected he would first assess all the departments under his authority and put people where they would best serve the community. DeHaven said he would also hire a chief deputy to run the law enforcement division in his absence and “bring new leadership, integrity and accountability to the department.”
DeHaven said the most pressing issue facing the sheriff’s office is morale, which he said is most often due to “insufficient leadership.”
“When I was a deputy, the pay was low, we had the very same issues that they’re (facing) today, but we had a good sheriff and we had good morale and we loved our job,” DeHaven said.
Barbour, who retired in 2009 from the U.S. Army after a 25-year career, said he sees low morale among employees as being the most pressing issue facing the department.
“I’ve talked to many of them — they don’t feel like they’re getting taken care of like they should,” said Barbour, who currently works as a security officer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Kearneysville, W.Va.
If elected, Barbour said he would work to make sure all sheriff’s office employees are receiving the proper training and equipment they need and alternating work schedules for law enforcement deputies and to implement 10-hour shifts.
“I just really don’t like the way things are running in there now as a taxpayer, and not as a candidate,” Barbour said when asked why he was running for sheriff.
“And I just don’t feel that the taxpayers’ money is being utilized properly and I don’t think the taxpayers are getting the service and support that they need,” Barbour said.
When asked to share a professional leadership experience, Barbour cited his deployment to Iraq as a platoon and operations sergeant where he had 45 soldiers under his control set up prisons and police stations while deployed there as part of their mission.
Lemaster said he believes increasing demands for service is the most pressing issue facing the department.
If re-elected, Lemaster said he would like to increase deputy staffing to reduce workload and make salaries comparable to area agencies.
Lemaster said he is running for re-election because he received a “wealth of training and experience” in his more than 30 years of law enforcement experience with the sheriff’s department “and it’s kind of my way of paying back the experience and training that I’ve had to the community.”
In response to criticism by his opponents concerning employee morale, Lemaster said he agrees sheriff’s deputies’ salaries are too low and has asked the Berkeley County Council for pay increases every year he’s been sheriff.
Lemaster also said he doesn’t think he can be faulted for doing everything within his power to obtain as much equipment and make other improvements to improve working conditions for deputies.
“I can only do the improvements that make the morale as good as I have to do it with. And I’m trying to do the best I can do with the budget afforded me by the county (council) and not expect to create more hardships on the citizens by (giving) pay raises, which the county doesn’t feel that they can give,” Lemaster said.
Orem, a real estate broker and businessman who previously worked for 10 years with the Martinsburg Police Department, said he believes interdepartmental lawsuits are one of the sheriff’s office’s biggest problems.
“There’s a lot of money being wasted there,” Orem said. “If we would have interdepartmental rules and procedures had been established by the current sheriff a lot of these interdepartmental lawsuits would have never come about, Orem said.
Orem said he would make a better department and safer community by instituting four-day, 10-hour work shifts that would reduce response times and improve morale.
Orem said the shift changes could allow deputies to earn additional income while off-duty, but he would also push to direct more of the sheriff’s office’s current budget toward pay and benefits for deputies and work to obtain additional funds through grants and improving the county’s home detention program.
Orem said the sheriff has the authority to “hire out deputies” for various purposes, such as music festivals or road construction projects.
“I’ve got five boys, I want to make a safer, better community,” Orem said when asked why he was running for sheriff.