cHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The three candidates for Putnam County sheriff agree drug abuse is a serious problem in the county.
Democrat Bud Lett and Republicans Steve Deweese and Rick Parsons met with the Daily Mail editorial board Thursday to discuss their plans for the office. All three have experience in law enforcement.
(To see a live blog from the editorial board meeting, CLICK HERE.)
"I believe that knowledge is power," Parsons said. "To better educate our youth, adults and seniors is the best defense against our prescription drug problem."
Lett agreed, saying many adults who get legal prescriptions often unknowingly supply drugs to youngsters. They often get a prescription for a painkiller after suffering an injury or medical procedure and stop taking the medicine when the pain subsides.
The unused medicine then sits in a cabinet unattended, he said.
Youth living in the house may then raid the medicine cabinet, stealing only one or two pills at a time, he said.
"They (kids) use these pills or they sell them," Lett said.
Deweese said one strategy is to place more officers in Putnam County schools.
"We need more officers there," he said. "We have one officer covering three high schools in the county and the VoTech."
Deweese said about 51 percent of high school seniors nationwide have admitted to using prescription drugs.
"It's a major problem," he said.
Other kinds of drugs flow into the area from Interstate 64 and U.S. 35.
Both Parsons and Lett said law enforcement officers should concentrate on the dealers, those who bring in small and large quantities of drugs.
All three also discussed their experience in the law enforcement field, covering both their investigative experience as well as their administrative skills.
Lett was a West Virginia State Police trooper from 1975 to 1985. He left the state police in the mid 1980s to become a special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
He served as a special agent and supervisor in Columbia, S.C. While in Columbia, he was coordinator of a local drug task force and was responsible for overseeing county, city and state officers in four counties.
He moved back to West Virginia in 1997 and was assigned to the Charleston DEA office. He worked with the federal agency in the state until 2010. During that time he became a supervisor of the agency's West Virginia operations.
During his tenure with the federal agency in West Virginia, he authored a grant that got the Putnam County Drug Task Force funded. He was also the mastermind behind a statewide task force that helps children living in homes where drugs are discovered being used or sold.
Lett said these connections with federal agencies would help him secure resources and information. He retired from the federal agency and currently serves as police chief in Kenova.
"I have 37 years of law enforcement experience from being a road trooper to state supervisor for the DEA," Lett said. "I've just about seen it all."