The Athens County Democratic Central Committee had the opportunity Tuesday night to bring a new sheriff into town, but instead it moved to keep the Athens County Commissioners’ appointee, Rodney Smith.
The committee voted 36-8 for Smith, who was currently serving as interim sheriff after he was appointed to the position March 27. He was running against Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Jack Taylor.
“Thank you very much,” Smith said after the committee’s selection. “I will work very hard everyday to make Athens County a safer place.”
The commissioners overall seemed pleased the committee voted to keep their choice in office.
“I think they made the right choice,” Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel said. “I look forward to working with Rodney.”
Commissioner Charlie Adkins said he was “delighted,” adding, “people can see the honest, open, hard-working individual we have now. All credit goes to Rodney Smith.”
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who often drew criticism from Pat Kelly when Kelly was being investigated by a grand jury led by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said “I’m happy there is stability in the sheriff’s office.”
All present members of the Central Committee had a vote that was both open and public.
“The reason why we are doing it this way is the vote is public,” said Kathy Hecht, Athens County Democratic Party chair. “It cannot be anonymous. You have to sign your name.”
Hecht, as the Central Committee chair, presided over its selection, which was held in the Athens Municipal Court in the City Building, 8 E. Washington St.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Hecht said. “I liked them both, and I give them a lot of credit for putting themselves out there.
“I’m happy with the choice because there’s obviously a lot of support for the person who was chosen,” Hecht added.
Smith has said he wants to focus on “community policing,” which he defines as getting local residents more involved in discussing problems in their community and communicating with law enforcement. He added he will emphasize targeting property crimes during his tenure.
“We’re going to go after property crimes as well as drugs … almost equally as hard as drugs,” Smith said.
Though some, such as suspended Sheriff Pat Kelly, were upset about changes Smith has made since coming into office.
“In the past week, The Athens County Sheriff’s Office has regressed 10 years,” Kelly said on his Facebook page Sunday. “Changes in my office have been made and more are planned and this should not be happening.”
But some, such as Commissioner Adkins, feel differently.
“He’s gonna do what he feels (is) right regardless,” Adkins said. “He’s not in it for the glory. He’s in it to make Athens County an upstanding county.”
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Committee elects new sheriff."