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New county sheriff proposes, implements changes

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Much to the chagrin of former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly, the Democratic Central Committee overwhelmingly selected retired Deputy Rodney Smith to replace him earlier this month. Since then, Smith has worked to improve the image of a department in transition.

According to The Athens NEWS, Kelly did not support Smith during the replacement process. Instead, he organized a thorough lobbying campaign to promote Det. Jack Taylor as his successor. Kelly likely lobbied for Taylor to prevent Smith from making changes to an office Kelly believes he will return to in October.

“BEWARE,” Kelly wrote on his personal Facebook page. “There has been a plan and effort in place for some time to destroy the NET and bring back the major crimes task force that was ineffective and did nothing to address Athens County’s problems.”

The NET, or Narcotics Enforcement Team, was one of Kelly’s notable anti-drug initiatives from his time as sheriff.

When he was sworn into office, Smith told The NEWS that although he does not intend to demobilize the NET, he strongly believes collaboration with organizations such as the Major Crimes Task Force would benefit the department.

Smith also denied Kelly’s accusation that his leadership would lead to job cuts. He told The NEWS that, if anything, there “will be more tweaking and maybe moving people around than losing jobs.”

Most of Smith’s proposals are nothing new. Before the committee selected an interim sheriff, both Smith and Taylor were given the chance to address committee voters. In his address, Smith mainly emphasized his belief in open communication with the public, law enforcement officers and office holders.

In addition to his goal of improving communication, the 26-year law-enforcement veteran also plans to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse, step up community-policing efforts and target rampant property damage perpetrated by heavy drug users.

In what was perhaps a symbol of Smith’s intention to renew the entity he oversees, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office unveiled a new Facebook page on Tuesday.

The page garnered well over 2,500 “likes” in two days. The old Athens County Sheriff’s Office page, which hasn’t been active since March 25, has accumulated around 7,000 “likes” since its debut in 2012. However, Kelly’s aforementioned personal Facebook page (which has more than 3,300 “likes”) served as a partial substitute to the old Athens County Sheriff’s Office page. Kelly often used his personal Facebook to communicate with his supporters.

No matter the outcome of Kelly’s pending trial, between the duties of the job and materializing various reforms, Smith will undoubtedly be busy in the coming months ahead.

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