ENON ─ Deborah Burchett, the first woman to serve as the Clark County sheriff, paid a visit to the Enon Village Council March 28.
Burchett is also the only female sheriff currently serving in the state and the third woman in Ohio history to hold that position after defeating 30-year incumbent Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly during the November 2016 election. Since she has taken office, Burchett said she is making every effort to be a community sheriff and visit the cities, villages and townships in the county.
The new sheriff also introduced her new chief deputy, Travis Russell, who accompanied her to the council meeting and noted that Russell was doing a great job at his new position. According to Burchett, there was no transition between administrations, smooth or otherwise, and all she was given on her first day on the job was a set of keys.
“Bear with me for the next several months. We’re in the rebuilding stage, and we are learning as we go,” she said.
Burchett stated that one of her primary goals as sheriff was to establish unity within the sheriff’s office and a partnership with other law enforcement agencies.
“We all need to come together. I have an open-door policy with my deputies, other law enforcement agencies and the Clark County community. I have overhauled my office and added a couch. I always have a pot of coffee brewing to share with anyone who pays me a visit,” said Burchett. “Again, my door is open anytime.”
The sheriff said she is continuing to make some changes at the sheriff’s office. One of her first actions as sheriff was to divide the major’s position into three. Two majors are serving as operations commanders, and one major is managing personnel and administrative matters. Those deputies that work in the county jail are also being cross-trained as patrol officers, and the traffic division is now working closely with the drug unit.
“We are primarily focusing on the drug problem in the county. That is definitely our biggest problem right now,” Burchett said. “Can we make a dent in it? Yes, we can.”
She stated that the sheriff’s office recently introduced its new K-9 officer, Gordon. The 4-year-old German shepherd, who was donated to the department, will be partnered with Deputy Christopher Doolin and will be aiding drug enforcement deputies during searches and patrols.
Burchett also stated that the sheriff’s department would continue to equip all cruisers with the nasal spray version of Narcan. The drug has proven to be very successful in reversing an overdose from heroin and other opiate drugs, according to the sheriff. Since the deputies have been carrying Narcan in their cruisers, they have administered the drug 109 times at the cost of $71 for each dose.
“Sometimes, the deputies will administer as many as six doses to an individual at one time,” said Burchett. “Unfortunately, the drug problem is everywhere in the county.”
Going forward, the sheriff said she plans to put more deputies on the streets, and the sheriff’s office recently hired six officers. However, Burchett said annual funding was cut by 3 percent this year and would be slash another 7 percent next year, which would possibly bring about cuts in the department.
“We will definitely be looking at grant monies to help cover annual costs,” she said. “Although the sheriff’s office is only required to maintain the county jail and serve the court, I want to provide as many deputies as I possibly can to patrol and protect the residents and businesses in the county.”
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.