Smith Brings Experience, Goals To New Job

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In his first full day in office, interim Sheriff Rodney Smith is already working on instituting a policy that focuses on gathering citizen input as well as putting his professional experience to work in his new position.

Smith was sworn in on Thursday and re-introduced himself to the sheriff’s office on Friday. Smith is a former lieutenant for the office.

He is still awaiting approval by the Democratic Central Committee on April 8 that would make him the interim sheriff until either an election takes place or suspended Sheriff Patrick Kelly is acquitted of the charges against him and his suspension is lifted.

Kelly was formally suspended by a panel commissioned by the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday.

The order was publicized Friday.

Kelly is charged with 25 criminal counts related to money laundering, theft in office, tampering with records and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, among others.

Smith, meanwhile, is looking forward to making a difference in the office, including being proactive with the problems facing the community.

In a news release, Smith thanked the county commissioners for the opportunity and said he “will work tirelessly to provide law enforcement to the community, transparency of all financial records and accountability.

“I want to lay the groundwork for a citizen patrol,” Smith told the Messenger on Friday.

“That would include monthly meetings with citizens, just talking to people and identifying what they think the problems are.”

Also on his list of goals is to bring in a state-funded grant for a major crimes task force.

He also wants to use grant money for vehicle maintenance, and for narcotics officers to conduct drug buys and enhance drug enforcement efforts in the county.

With a long history in law enforcement dating back to the 1980s, the acting interim sheriff hopes to apply what he has learned as a deputy and as a lieutenant, second-in-command during former Sheriff Vern Castle’s administration, to lead the department.

Smith, a Coolville native and Federal-Hocking High School graduate, began his career as a corrections officer and studied at Hocking College before being promoted to deputy within the Athens County Sheriff’s Office. He spent four years as local union president for local law enforcement, voted into the position by his peers.

He isn’t the only one in his family who picked up the law enforcement passion.

Smith has watched as his twin nephews, Brian and Brandon Follrod became law enforcement officers themselves.

Brian works for the Athens Police Department and Brandon is a university police officer in northern Ohio.

“They would come in (while Smith worked as a deputy) and ride with me,” Smith said.

His 16-year-old son hasn’t said whether he wants to go into law enforcement, but enjoyed the time Smith has spent in retirement since August 2013 riding motorcycles together.

Coming out of retirement wasn’t a hard decision for him, Smith said, because he saw his past jobs as an advantage in becoming acting interim sheriff.

No major changes to the office are planned, but Smith said “everything is being assessed.”

“I won’t lose sight of who we work for, (the citizens’) safety is first and foremost,” Smith said.

“I have a lot of (experience) to bring to the job and to bring back some stability to the office.”