POINT PLEASANT — Mason County Sheriff Corey Miller started his term in the middle of a global pandemic, but that has not stopped his work to help the county.
Miller ran for sheriff in hopes of making a difference within the community.
“I thought I could bring something to the table, especially budget wise, Miller said. “We’ve been able to do a lot.
One thing Miller hoped to do was upgrade the department’s fleets, as well as help out other departments in the county.
“One good thing COVID has brought, it’s brought in some money,” Miller said. “It’s brought in money for the law enforcement salaries and stuff have been reimbursed, as [was the] EMS salary. So, we were able to upgrade the fleet. [It] was deplorable, because the county couldn’t really afford to buy cars. We were driving cars with over 300,000 miles on them, expected to run if you’ve got to go on a run code. You want something safe.”
Between COVID funding and working with the Mason County Commissioners, the fleet was replaced.
“COVID allowed us to do that, the commissions worked with us with that money. We’ve pretty much got the fleet turned around,” Miller said. “We’re going to continue to work every year and try to dig the money up to get a new car or two every year, hopefully. Fingers crossed if we can do that. Whether I’m in here four or eight years, I think the fleet will stay good. We’ve been able to help some of the town police departments with [cars],” Miller said.
Miller said a car was given to Hartford, Mason and New Haven departments and there is one for Henderson if the officer position is revived.
Miller said going into office, he wanted to work on being transparent about the department’s work and making a presence in the county.
“One of my goals was to make our presence in the county, be more visible to people,” Miller said. “I’ve tried to work on being transparent about what we’re doing here. From our equipment improvements or upgrades or vehicles. I tried to account where people’s tax dollars are going to better serve them. I definitely want [us] to be more visible in rural areas, and sometimes it’s tough is you get swamped with calls, but most of these guys are good. If they’re not on an active call, they’re taking a drive somewhere.”
While Miller says the duties of an officer is about 90 percent paperwork and 10 percent actually out on the field, he said they try to get out to make a positive impact.
“We’ve had several requests from kids wanting somebody to show up to a birthday party,” Miller said. “I’ve made it my goal personally, we’ll stop if somebody asks and the kids love it. Most of the guys are terrific about it. For the most part, we’ve had a ton of positive interactions with people. I know myself, I’ll stop and just talk to people. I’ll talk to kids, whoever and most of them appreciate it.”
The Mason County Sheriff’s office covers 485 miles of road throughout the county, Miller said.
Like many other employers across the country, the department has faced an employee shortage, something Miller has been working to rectify.
“We [were] down two guys from when we took office,” Miller said. “We had a guy retire, a guy go to state police, so we’ve been down two officers for the first none months, so those were immediate losses.”
While Miller has been working on recruitment, he said the department has been able to make it work with city officers.
“Luckily we have city police here in Point Pleasant, most of the time we have coverage in Mason, New Haven,” Miller said. “You know, they struggle to find officers too.”
Miller said he appreciates the work and dedication of his officers during the shortage, noting that sometimes there are only three officers working the county.
Several officers have been off due to COVID-19 and quarantine and one officer was handling calls while dealing with a broken ankle, Miller said.
“It’s like a juggling act,” Miller said. “And I’ll give these guys credit where we’ve been down. Summer time, we were [sitting] really good because our PROs worked the road. But these guys, the regular road deputies have worked a ton of overtime to help cover shifts.”
Two new officers have since been recruited — Deputy John D. Kinnard and Deputy Chris Connor.
Miller said he believes people no longer want to be police officers and that has caused the shortage.
“When I was a young man, here you’d have 40-50 people take that civil service test when you put it out,” Miller said. “I’ve had two tests in the first nine months. Seven people total, four on the first one and three on the second. People don’t want to be police officers anymore.”
There are several reasons why people no longer want to be officers anymore, Miller said.
“People don’t want to do it because first of all, you’re not going to retire rich,” Miller said. “I can start a deputy [at a] pretty comfortable wage around here, but it’s still hard to raise a family. You consider what other job pay that around here, it’s be more beneficial to work a plant if you could get in.”
Miller says even with good benefits, there’s one reason why the officers are on the force.
“Most of them just wouldn’t want to do anything else. The ones who work here, they just enjoy it,” Miller said. “It’s good enough for them. You won’t die rich, but will die [knowing they] probably did a lot of good in their life. A majority of them, I can vouch for that already.”
Miller hopes to be a positive presence in the community, one people trust.,
“We want to operate a professional, courteous, respectful sheriff’s office and transparent, of course, that was a campaign promise,” Miller said.
He said something that seems small to us is a big deal to others and he wants to be there.
“The way I look at it, I’m never off duty,” Miller said. “I’ll come out and drive around the evenings sometimes, talk to people. My phone’s always on if people need to call and talk. It;s very rewarding to be able to help people and I hope people are satisfied with the job I’m doing right now, if not, my door is always open.”
Miller said right now his heart is to be a public servant and he hopes to accomplish a lot more in the next three years and hopefully more after that.
More on Sheriff Miller and the department’s work in an upcoming edition.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.