POINT PLEASANT — United States Attorney Michael Stuart gave the keynote speech at this week’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner, sponsored by the Point Pleasant Rotary. The dinner also featured the presentation of the annual officer of the year award which went to a member of the Mason County Sheriff’s Department, Cpl. Ronald “Ronnie” D. Spencer.
Speaking to a room filled with law enforcement officers and their families, Stuart addressed the opioid crisis within the United States, specifically West Virginia.
When Stuart was a young boy, being a U.S. attorney was not on his life’s itinerary in his mind. He wanted to be like his father, a coal miner whom he admired, who was his hero. Stuart’s family was typical middle-class, a family filled with love living in West Virginia. He admired his parents and his grandmother who received the Distinguished West Virginian Award one year for helping individuals obtain running water in their homes. Stuart knew first hand about substance abuse when he was a young boy as his father was an alcoholic. Though he had dreams of being a coal miner like his father, his mother wanted him to reach higher, wanted him to pursue a career where he could make a difference in the world.
“I carry in my pocket the pictures of the victims of the opioid crisis and I do it because, and I know every story here, I’m so tired of embracing the moms and the dads who lose their child, some of them who didn’t even know their son or daughter had an issue, a problem, an addiction. Some of these stories stick out to me like you won’t believe and late at night as the father of 17-year old and 18-year old daughters, they haunt me, late at night…,” said Stuart. “I would love to be able to hug all of these moms and dads and tell them it’s going to be okay, but I can’t do that because things weren’t okay.”
Stuart expressed his appreciation and gratitude towards those in law enforcement.
“To all the law enforcement folks out here, I thank you for what you do every day on the behalf of West Virginia and the people of this community…,” said Stuart. “Working in law enforcement has become hard and it has become hard to find people…it’s hard to find folks who want the risk, the damage, the toughness, the hours, the pay, all these things it makes it very difficult.”
Tim Martin from Point Pleasant Rotary then introduced the officer of the year award, presenting it to Spencer who has served with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department for 12 years and has been in law enforcement for 39 years. Spencer is married to Rebecca (Becky) Spencer and they have three sons, Nathan, Andy and Jarred. Ronnie has lived in Mason County his entire life. In 1983, he was hired by the Point Pleasant Police Department (PPPD) and graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy 50th Basic Class in 1984. He worked his way through the ranks up to Chief of Police for the PPPD, in 2007 he retired. Following retirement, he joined the Mason County Sheriff’s Department as a Certified Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) serving primarily at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School, Mason County Career Center and the Mason County School for Success. He also received his certification from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to become a Hunter Safety Instructor. Ronnie is actively involved in his community and strives to keep the roads in Mason County as safe as possible. Along with the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Office in Huntington, he helps educate and train young drivers in the county.
His nomination form, states “Spencer has gone above and beyond the normal duties of a PRO. He works most of the extra-curricular events at PPJ/SHS including sports, DARE graduations, assemblies, faculty senate meetings, proms, graduations, etc.”
His nomination noted in 2011 he received the coveted “Above and Beyond Award” at the West Virginia State PRO Conference. That awarded was given due to his efforts following a reported threat from a PPHS student at the time who claimed they were bringing a gun to school to cause possible harm to others, the nomination form stated.
“PRO Spencer worked tirelessly throughout the night interviewing witnesses and investigating leads that resulted in the suspect being taken into custody before school time the next morning, preventing panic and chaos in the community,” his nomination form reported.
“I know of no other law enforcement officer who is more deserving or qualified to receive the 2019 Mason County Officer of the Year Award than Ronald D. Spencer, a ‘hometown boy’ who has dedicated his life to protecting and serving the citizens of Mason County,” the nomination form concluded.
This was the seventh year for the dinner, with all law enforcement officers and their families in Mason County invited to a free meal and fellowship. The event was held at the First Church of God Worship Center. Rev. Bobby Patterson donated the use of his church for the event and several sponsors provided financial assistance as well. Catering was done by the ladies of First Church of God.
Martin led the Pledge of Allegiance and Rev. Patterson gave the invocation. The honor guard from the sheriff’s department once again presented the colors.
Beth Sergent contributed to this article.
Erin (Perkins) Johnson is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.