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Dougherty concludes decades of public service

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Jan 1, 2021

Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty concluded his term in office at the end of 2020. Toni Milbourne

KEARNEYSVILLE — Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty concluded his term in office at the end of 2020, after having served as the lead law enforcement officer and county treasurer since 2013.

Dougherty was appointed to the seat following the resignation of Sheriff Bobby Shirley. He was then elected in 2014 to complete the term and won a full term in 2016.

“You can’t serve more than eight years, so I was ineligible to run again,” Dougherty explained.

A bid for State Senate was unsuccessful in the November election, so now Dougherty is ready to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation.

That break comes after 45 years of public service in multiple capacities. Dougherty began and ended his career in Jefferson County, where in 1975, he worked in the probation and parole offices for Jefferson and Berkeley counties. He then served as a Jefferson County magistrate before taking a position working for Congressman Harley Staggers, Jr. in 1983.

Dougherty worked for 10 years as a professional staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives, before transitioning to the Office of House Veterans Affairs. In 1994, he began work at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he served as the first National Director of the Homeless Veterans program and the Interim Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Government Affairs.

Dougherty kept active in volunteer roles and local elected office as he served on the Jefferson County Board of Education for 25 years.

“I was president of the board for 21 of those 25 years,” he said.

His role on the Board of Education ended when, in 2013, he was asked if he would consider throwing his name in the hat for the sheriff appointment.

“The VA had offered me a West Coast job that would have been good financially, but I wasn’t thrilled with the potential move,” Dougherty said.

After clearing it with his wife, Jan, he submitted a short letter of consideration to the Jefferson County Commission and was called within a matter of days for an interview. He was offered the job, and after resigning from his position with the Board of Education, because he could not hold two elected offices, he was sworn in to served.

The sheriff’s job was a great way to stay in my home,” Dougherty said. “I never left West Virginia, even when I worked in D.C.”

Dougherty is proud of the work he has done in his role as sheriff, increasing the proactiveness of his department.

“We have increased visibility all around the county,” he said. “The year I came on board, we had 11,500 calls and 457 arrests. Last year, we responded to 23,752 calls, with over 1,000 arrests.”

Another thing Dougherty is proud of from his tenure, is the development of the county Special Response Team. Designation in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program was also a major accomplishment, which allowed a focus to be placed on battling drug problems in the area.

“We now have two officers working with the Drug Task Force,” Dougherty said, mentioning that under his leadership, the department created an effective investigations office and acquired Dave Boober, an expert in the state for retrieving information from computers and cell phones.

“Boober has been instrumental in criminal analysis,” Dougherty said. “We have a quality group at the department.”

According to Dougherty, two areas he would like to have been more successful in, include pushing for additional state troopers in the Eastern Panhandle and working for state road improvements and the elimination of an excess of traffic stops/lights.

While he is looking forward to some travel and reading for pleasure, Dougherty plans to continue to be active in his community. He will remain active with the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, Kiwanis Club of Charles Town and local Boy Scout troops.

But for now, he plans to take time to relax and join his wife in Florida.

“I look forward to the opportunity to see if I can ‘not’ get up at 5 a.m.,” Dougherty laughed, mentioning that he is not desperate for full time work, although he is open to community service-related opportunities.