A candidate who wasn't even a candidate during the primary election season has been chosen by Upshur County voters as their next sheriff.
Dave Coffman, who was placed on the Republican ballot this summer after primary victor Mike Kelley withdrew from the election at the request of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel because of violations regarding the federal Hatch Act, defeated independent candidate and former sheriff Sherman Baxa, 4,519 votes to 2,881 votes.
Baxa had filed to run as an independent candidate during the summer because of the legal confusion regarding the sheriff's race, which ultimately went to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Coffman also had filed to run as an independent candidate just days before receiving the nod from the Upshur County Republican Executive Committee to be its nominee.
"I wouldn't be here tonight if it weren't for all the love and support my friends and family showed me through all of this," Coffman said.
Coffman, who has been driving an Upshur County school bus during his short-lived retirement, said the past 90 days have featured a whirlwind of activity. For the time being, he said he plans to sit back and relax a little.
"Maybe go on a short vacation, and I would like to do a little bit of hunting," he said. "After that, in December, I would like to come in and work with current Sheriff Virgil Miller to learn the process before taking office on Jan. 1."
Former Republican candidate David Taylor sought to have his name put on the November ballot after the Hatch Act violation was discovered.
He contended, though unsuccessfully in court, that he should be declared the winner of the primary election because he was the highest vote-getter among eligible candidates. But the Supreme Court ruled against him in October, citing cases as far back as 1898 that declared the runner-up in an election does not automatically become the winner when the top vote-getter drops out.
The county Executive Committee had considered placing Taylor's name on the November ballot, but opted to go with Coffman by an 8-4 vote. Coffman has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, recently retiring as the chief deputy with the Lewis County Sheriff's Department.
He said talking about any potential changes to the Upshur department would be premature.
"I'm sure I'll see some changes I want to make, but the sheriff's department has a good, solid foundation and some good people," Coffman said. "Before I make any changes, I'll ask myself two questions: If I make this change, will it be good for the department? If I make this change, will be good for the citizens of Upshur County?"
Coffman said he has a working knowledge of the tax collection aspect of the job, something he learned from his years of service in Lewis County. He praised the work of Chief Tax Deputy Sheila Adams.
"She will work with me hand in hand," Coffman said.