Changing faces in Floyd County government

Sheriff Shannon Zeman retiring at the end of 2015.
Sheriff Shannon Zeman retiring at the end of 2015.

Some faces of Floyd County government will be gone from the scene by the end of 2015.  Some will be replaced by familiar folks while others will have newer, and not as recognizable, ones when 2016 starts.

Stephanie Shortt left county government shortly before the end of 2014, moving on to become a juvenile and domestic relations judge.  Eric Branscom, who lost an earlier attempt to take the job in 2007, won a three-way primary earlier this month and appears headed for a four-year term in a November election with no opponents.

Sheriff Shannon Zeman is retiring after many years in the department and three terms in the top job.  He’s been a popular and effective sheriff but leaves after pissing off some hardcore Floyd County Republicans who didn’t like his endorsement of Democratic Senator Mark Warner for re-election in 2014.

At issue was a so-called “oath” that the GOP nitpickers felt Zeman violating that, they claimed, forced him to support Republicans and only Republicans.

Some of those who complained are double-talkers who claim, on one hand, that they have supported Democrats in the past but now look the other way when a fellow Republican comes under fire.  We lost respect for some Republicans who used that questionable “oath” to criticize Zeman.

The “oath” by the way, says: “I do certify that I believe in the principles and goals of the Floyd County Republican Party, that I have and will continue to support candidates of the Republican Party, and that I will run as Republican. If not selected by my party for the office I shall support the Republican candidate for that office and shall not seek the office in November as an independent candidate.”  Several political scholars said Zeman’s endorsement of Warner did not violate that oath.

To his credit, Zeman had decided to retire long before the brouhaha over his endorsement of Warner.  He had told us three years ago that this was most likely his last term.

Deputy Sheriff Brian Craig, winning of the GOP nomination for Sheriff.
Deputy Sheriff Brian Craig, winning of the GOP nomination for Sheriff.

Longtime Deputy Brian Craig beat out Christiansburg police officer Doug Weddle, who worked briefly for the Floyd department in the beginning of his law enforcement career.  Weddle has endorsed Craig after a close primary.

Former Deputy Laura Amanda Reinhard Sparks is running as an Independent in the November election.  She ran against Zeman and lost in 2011.

A third candidate entered the fray Tuesday as former bailiff and retired Virginia State Trooper Jimmy Howery announced he is seeking the sheriff’s race, also as an Independent.  Howery was fired from his part-time post as bailiff on the same day a letter from him appeared in The Floyd Press that was critical of the current department’s operations, its deputies and other issues.  He also endorsed Weddle.  Personnel actions involving government employees are confidential by Virginia law and Sheriff Zeman said he could not discuss the action.

Longtime Circuit Clark Wendell Peters is retiring after 24 years in the post.  His deputy, Rhonda Vaughn, is running to take the seat as a Republican and no Democrats or Independents have announced.

Floyd County is a place where Democrats run against long odds and no one from that party has announced for any seat up for election in November.

An Independent is running for an open seat on the Board of Supervisors.  Current Little River Supervisor Virgel Allen is retiring and Realtor and sports announcer Linda DeVito announced in 2014 she is running against retired businessman Eddie Worth, who also runs the “Safe Surfing” Internet operation for the county.  Little River is normally considered a safe seat for Republicans.

(Edited from original post to add Howery’s announcement seeking the Sheriff’s position.)

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