Retired Piketon police chief Jim Nelson was appointed the interim Pike County Sheriff after a majority vote Thursday night.
Nelson was appointed after criminal charges were filed against now-suspended county Sheifff Charles Reader in June. Reader agreed to a temporary suspension with pay from office until the conclusion of his criminal cases, which could go until April 2020.
Four people were initially in the running: current chief deputy Bob Barbee, current EMS director Tim Dickerson, county prosecuting attorney investigator Tracy Evans, and retired Piketon police Chief Jim Nelson.
Barbee withdrew his name from consideration sometime this last week.
The county Democratic Party met in executive session shortly after convening the meeting at 7 p.m. Before a motion was made to go into the private meeting, a central committee member asked the chairman, David DeWitt if the vote to fill the position could be taken “by secret vote.” DeWitt said yes, and that it would be discussed in the executive session.
Moments after the party left the room to meet in a nearby meeting room at Piketon High School, a party representative for the Ohio Democratic Party was seen at the front of the school cafeteria on his phone talking to state party chairman David Pepper. The man, Bill DeMora was overheard saying that the Pike County Democratic Party was attempting to illegally take the vote to appoint an interim Sheriff in private and that it was not allowed. Simultaneously, a local county party committee member stepped out of the meeting and asked for county prosecutor and party member Rob Junk to join them, presumably for legal advice.
Junk stepped out of the meeting a short time later and was handed a phone by DeMora, the state party’s secretary and liaison to the Democratic National Committee. The prosecutor spent approximately five minutes on the phone Chairman Pepper before Junk and DeMora stepped into the meeting.
Approximately an hour later, the county party adjourned from executive session and invited the three remaining candidates to the front of the room to speak.
After they spoke, DeWitt called each committee member to the front of the room and one-by-one, each wrote their vote on a paper ballot that was placed in a basket with their own name and the candidate they were voting for. The votes were read aloud with Nelson winning with 11 votes. Two people abstained, Tracy Evans received three, and Tim Dickerson had two votes.
Nelson was seen in the crowd with a smile on his face and shaking hands. He will take office immediately.