Republican, Libertarian are candidates for Wood County sheriff

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WOOD COUNTY, W.Va.-(WTAP) Steve Stephens has spent nearly 40 years in law enforcement, including being chief of police in Vienna, and Director of Confinement for the Wood County Sheriff's Office for the past six years.

Libertarian Brent West mainly has a business background.

Both differ on whether a police background is necessary to be the county's next sheriff.

"I'm a certified law enforcement officer for the state of West Virginia," Stephens says. "I can do investigations, and when time allows me, I want to do that. I want to listen to what the public has to say and get out on patrol.

"I understand the ins and outs of budgets, I understand the ins and outs of administrative tasks and duties," West says. "And as a successful manager, I have always surrounded myself with good people, and I will continue to do that."

Another issue where they differ is on the drug epidemic. Stephens plans to target the illegal sale of opioids.

"Another thing we're going to do is increase our drug investigations, the major dealers who are bringing in stuff from outside the area," he says. "We're going to concentrate more and help the drug task force on that. The best we can with what we have."

West supports a needle exchange program, and says treatment and education on abuse are better alternatives to jail sentences.

He supports something other states have done-legalizing marijuana.

"I believe it's a natural, safe alternative to opioid painkillers, which tend to lead to the heroin epidemic once we crack down on doctors prescribing opioid painkillers."

The next sheriff, Stephens says, will have to deal with county budget cuts. He advocates office staff sharing duties, including his own. West proposes, when possible, reducing the overtime budget for deputies.

Stephens defeated four other opponents, including current sheriff Ken Merritt, to win the Republican primary last May.

West filed as a Libertarian shortly after that primary.