Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth was sworn in as the 80th president of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) on Saturday at Heritage Memorial Church.
The event began at 2 p.m. with NSA Executive Director Jonathan F. Thompson serving as the emcee for the swearing in. Thompson began by introducing a few guests in the crowd and inviting a number of representatives to share proclamations or letters to Stanforth. These letters included personal sentiments as well as congratulatory messages for his new position.
One of the first individuals to speak about Stanforth was Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who was in attendance. DeWine said that Stanforth has provided great counsel to him, and he has known him as an informed sheriff for many years.
“Vernon, I think we really started working together after I was elected attorney general,” DeWine said. “That relationship was a great relationship. Whenever I wanted to know what sheriffs (around the state) are thinking or how they look at (a particular situation) Vernon was always there. As the head of the Ohio Peace Officers training counsel, we work very closely. He is someone who has really been at the forefront of law enforcement training, he understands it, understands how very important it is to the state and to the country. From Fran (DeWine) and from me, we are just very grateful for you. Vernon is someone who is a sheriff’s sheriff—we look at him and he represents law enforcement. Not only does he have the experience, but he carries with him an unbelievable passion. If you really want to see it, go to the Ohio Police Officers Memorial every year. Most of us get up there and we have a script or a speech to read, but Vernon gets up there and he speaks all from the heart. We never know what he is going to say, but we always knew it was something that would grab you. The ceremony is honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty and he captures that moment — frankly — better than anyone and, when he is speaking, you look at the families of those being honored and you know that is who he is speaking too and that is the kind of man he is.”
Another speaker during the event was State Senator Bob Peterson who — like Stanforth — has served the people of Fayette County for many years. Peterson said he originally ran for Fayette County Commissioner at the same time Stanforth was running for Fayette County Sheriff and remembers the years fondly working with him in that position.
“Years ago, both of us started to feel some nudging and urging to maybe run for office,” Peterson said. “I quickly came to realize that my competition wasn’t the gentlemen I was running against, it was Stanforth. You see, I put up more signs than anyone in the history of the county. My green signs plastered the county, but for every green sign I had, Vernon Stanforth had three or four yellow signs that said, ‘Stanforth for Sheriff.’ Now when we started knocking on doors, I knocked on more than he did—now that is an accomplishment. Partly why I was able to do that is I was thinner 25 years ago, Vernon was heavier 25 years ago. Here is why though, as he was knocking on doors, people would say, ‘come on in. I have lunch on the table, come eat lunch.’ I would just knock on their door, and he would come and eat. I will say though that one of his greatest strengths is sitting beside him—his incredible wife Joy who is a force of nature. She loves, supports and cares for him and all of the Sheriff’s Office and county family. She connects with all of us. That is so very important, and we are proud of her also for the encouragement she has given him.”
Finally, after a few more speakers from across the country, Stanforth — surrounded by his family, friends and peers — took the oath of office for the national position. The honor of swearing in Stanforth was given to Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard, who also spoke about his appreciation for the sheriff.
“On a personal note, there is a lot of love, honor and respect flying around the room here today, and I want to add my two-cents worth,” Beathard said prior to giving the oath. “I have a great affinity for this man and the department that he leads. It has been an honor to serve along with him these last 16 years I have been on the bench. The National Sheriffs’ Association is also close to my heart. About three years ago, I was one of the lucky attorneys across the country that was nominated for admission to the Bar of the United State Supreme Court, and Vernon was instrumental in getting that nomination for me, and we spent some time in Washington D.C. He knows how I feel, and I think everything said today was well deserved.”
Following the swearing in, Stanforth took time to address the crowd and thanked them for coming to join for the swearing in. He urged leaders from across the country to help him with the issues that are continuing to plague law enforcement. He encouraged them to help fund proper and consistent training as much as he encouraged and supported law enforcement in their efforts to change. Stanforth said that policing now is not the same as it was 30 years ago, 20 years ago or even a decade ago, and it is up to the officers to continue to change how they police to meet the needs of the public.
“I try to keep myself humble, and my wife and family make sure I stay humble,” Stanforth said. “I do want to recognize my wife (Joy), the nation’s new Sheriff Association’s first lady. It is a great honor, and it is something that I do not take lightly. I know the responsibilities there, and it is going to be very challenging over the next year, but I have had a lot of things behind me. I now represent 3,000 sheriffs who represent 330 million people across this country. We have an obligation like no other, and we are willing to stand up and meet that obligation like no other, and we will do what we have to do to make America a better society, a safer society, for all people. Period.”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.