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Sheriff-elect suggests brother for old job

For the past eight years, it's been Sheriff Rutherford and his sidekick, Chief Deputy Rutherford.

If the Kanawha County Commission approves, that will continue with a reordering of the first names.

Sheriff-elect John Rutherford served as chief deputy under his brother, Mike, for the past eight years.

The two hope to switch positions on Jan. 1.

John, 55, said he would recommend that county commissioners approve the appointment of his older brother, 61, at a meeting today. He said he wants to keep the team intact at the sheriff's department.

John also will recommend that Allen Bleigh remain as chief tax deputy, Don Searls as director of the Day Report Center and drug court, and Harry Carpenter as chief of the home confinement office.

"This team works," John said. "The sheriff's department has worked very well for eight years." 

The only change will be the appointment of Tony Keller as chief of the legal processes division. The sheriff-elect formerly ran that division as chief deputy, he said.

As for the propriety of appointing his older brother, he mentioned the gas line explosion in Sissonville Tuesday.

"He (Mike) always knows what to do, and we worked together seamlessly," he said.

John set up a committee to consider the chief deputy position. The members were Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants and former chief deputy and State Police trooper Larry Herald.

They recommended Mike.

The committee was formed to satisfy a state statute, Commission President Kent Carper said.

Mike thinks his 40 years of experience will be beneficial to the other officers.

"I still feel like I can contribute a lot," he said.

He said he had no reservations about working with his younger brother.

"We've worked well together for about 35 years," Mike said.

Mike started as a city police officer in his native St. Albans. He worked at the city for four years before moving to the sheriff's department. John began working at the sheriff's department about one year later.

Carper said the two have always worked well together.

"They kind of come as a team," he said. 

Carper said at least two members of the committee that considered the appointment are Republicans (Jones and Plants) while the Rutherfords are Democrats. Therefore, the appointment is not political, he said.

"Mike has 40 years of law enforcement experience, so no one can say he's not qualified," he said.

Carper said he would support the appointment in today's meeting. 

"I would be extremely disappointed if this isn't approved by the other commissioners," he said. "This is clearly in the best interests of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department."

County residents apparently appreciate John's service because he ran for sheriff unopposed even after serving as chief deputy under his brother, Carper said.

"I can't think of any elected official who has run unopposed for a vacant office," he added.  

John, who officially retired from the sheriff's department on Aug. 1 to pursue the elected office, has begun drawing a deputy's pension of about $60,000 a year.

He will continue to collect that pension on top of his $44,880 annual salary as sheriff. The sheriff also receives up to $15,000 in commission if the tax office collects more than 90 percent of the taxes due to the county. So his total compensation could be about $120,000 a year.

As sheriff, John will contribute to another state pension plan.

Mike currently draws a pension of about $26,000 a year based on his service as a deputy sheriff. He will receive a pension of about 10,000 a year from another state plan based on his service as sheriff, he said.

However, Mike will stop drawing the deputy's pension if he serves as chief deputy. He will resume making contributions to the plan and draw a higher benefit when he leaves the position. That would result from the additional service credits and the higher pay upon which the benefit would be based.   

"A chief deputy is considered a deputy," he said.

Mike's salary as chief deputy will be set by the commission. John made about $77,000 a year in that position, County Manager Jennifer Sayre said.              

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817.  Follow him at 


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