Updated Thu, Apr 10, 2014 11:09 am
It took less than 20 minutes for the Athens County Democratic Committee to name Rodney Smith as the official interim sheriff for Athens County Tuesday night. Smith defeated the only other nominee, Lt. Detective Jack Taylor in a 36-8 vote. All but two committee members were present at the 6 p.m. meeting to cast their votes.
The special election comes after suspended sheriff Pat Kelly faces a criminal case of 23 felony charges including money laundering and theft in office. He was suspended from office by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Conner. Kelly has pleaded innocent to all charges and is using this time to work on his case.
Committee Chairwoman Julia Michael Scott was in charge of the special meeting. She says the meeting ran smoothly despite the two candidates vying for the position. Scott said, "We had the ballots prepared so all they had to do was sign their name on that ballot because it is a public vote, and then choose whoever they wanted."
Smith had been serving as the temporary interim sheriff since March 27. He previously served as Athens County Sheriff's Lieutenant. Smith will remain in office and assume all duties and responsibilites of sheriff until Pat Kelly either is found not guilty and returns to office, or resigns, or is convicted. The interim sheriff plans to focus on reducing property crimes and drug related crimes in all areas of Athens County. He said, "I'm very excited that the Athens County Central Committee chose me and very humbled as well."
When asked what his next step is, he replied "We just go back to work. The safety of the citizens of Athens County is too important not to. We have a good community policing program now but I want to get them into more communities, especially smaller ones."
Smith has already announced that the office will no longer accept "cash" payments toward any of the offices' programs. This includes background checks, public records requests and concealed carry applications among others.
The announcement of the official interim sheriff has many residents relieved. Retired resident of Athens County Janet Polzer said. "I'm really happy that all of this is over, for several weeks there has been alot of speculation and I'm just glad this is over."