Reeder wins Putnam circuit judge race
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The closest race in Putnam County was for circuit judge, even though Republican Joe Reeder easily took the seat Tuesday night.
Races for circuit judge, sheriff, commissioner and assessor in Putnam were easily handed to Republican candidates.
The county has 15,023 Democrats compared to just 15,026 Republicans and about 6,000 registered independent voters.
However, Republicans dominated the county's election with all 47 precincts reporting early Wednesday morning.
"It's just a bad night in Putnam County to have a 'D' next to your name," Putnam Commissioner Joe Haynes, a Republican, said with a laugh.
Reeder easily defeated J. Robert Leslie to become circuit judge with more than 57 percent of the vote to fill the remaining four years of retired Judge O.C. Spaulding's eight-year term.
Republican Steve Deweese overtook Democrat Bud Lett by more than 5,500 votes and will serve as the county's sheriff for the next four years.
Democrat D.W. "Peachie" Arthur fell by about 5,000 votes to incumbent assessor Republican Sherry Troyer Hayes. Republican Andy Skidmore became a county commissioner, defeating Democratic candidate Lee Casto with 60 percent of votes.
Leslie will move out of the office, which Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed him to fill in June. Reeder, a Hurricane attorney who defeated former circuit judge Edward Eagloski in the GOP primary, didn't apply for the appointment.
Reeder plans to find ways to streamline cases to deal with the county's drug problem, which he says accounts for around 90 percent of crime in the county.
He wants to introduce an adult drug court and focus on ways to keep the rate of recidivism down, which usually occurs when convicted felons can't kick their drug habits.
He graduated from West Virginia University and runs a law firm in Hurricane, where he was celebrating his victory with friends Tuesday night.
"This means a lot to me. I really am looking forward to the opportunity to serve the people of Putnam County. I thought that this would go this way, and I'm glad that it did," he said.
Deweese, of Scott Depot, retired earlier this year to run for sheriff after serving 21 years as a Putnam County sheriff's deputy. He plans to add more officers to the county's drug task force, which has three officers.
Deweese, who won 66 percent of the vote, believes having officers in county high schools will also deter drug use at a young age.
He wants to increase patrols in rural areas of the county, and return drug-sniffing dogs to the department. Deweese says his experience in the U.S. Army will help him run the department.
Deweese beat out Lett, currently the police chief in Kenova and a former federal agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and State Police trooper. He will replace Sheriff Mark Smith, who has served the maximum eight years in office.
"I'm just kind of in awe right now -- surprised and shocked. I'm thankful and grateful the citizens selected me to lead the department for the next four years. I think I've run a strong campaign," Deweese said.
Skidmore, of Poca, will join fellow Republicans Joe Haynes and Steve Andes on the county commission. He believes his financial expertise will assist the budget process. He's the vice president of Passero Financial Group in Hurricane and believes the county's budget will soon change because Putnam's growth has slowed.
He said commissioners' decision earlier this year to raise the county's fire fee, which hadn't been increased in more than 20 years, was necessary, but he wants to monitor how the money is spent.
Skidmore defeated Casto, who is well known by county officials since he's been head of the county's maintenance department. Skidmore won more than 60 percent of the vote.
Tillis decided not to run for re-election. He had served one term in office.
"I'm just excited to get into office and into that position and serve the residents of Putnam County," Skidmore said in a telephone call. He was watching the results come in on his computer at home. "I want to be a voice for business in the county."
Hayes kept her seat as assessor by defeating Arthur, her former boss, who served as assessor from 1997 through 2008.
Arthur had accused Hayes of playing favorites with employees who supported her in the last election, which she won by about 200 votes.
"I've had four years to prove myself and I'm honored they've elected me to another four, and I'm not going to let them down," she said.
During her campaign, Hayes touted the advances she's made in the office by organizing and separating the personal property, real estate and mapping departments, which has allowed quicker service for taxpayers.
Putnam Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia will begin his fifth term in office in January. He ran unopposed.
Magistrate candidates Linda Hunt, Kylene Brown and Scot Lawrence, all Republicans, also didn't face any opposition Tuesday. Hunt and Brown are incumbents, and Lawrence unseated incumbent Kim Blair in the May primary.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.