Clark County made history electing its first-ever female sheriff

Newly elected Clark County Sheriff Deborah Burchett
Newly elected Clark County Sheriff Deborah Burchett

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – In a stunning upset new comer Deborah Burchett unseated 30-year incumbent Gene Kelly in a hotly contested race for Clark County sheriff.

“It’s just so exciting right now, I don’t really think it’s sank in at this point, you know it’s been 30 years since we’ve had a new Sheriff in Clark County,” Burchett said.

Burchett will be the first woman ever to serve as Clark County sheriff, but she’s no stranger to the office.  Burchett worked as a deputy for 29-years in the Clark County sheriff’s office before retiring in 2011.

Prior becoming the first elected female sheriff in the county, she was also the first female sergeant in charge of the investigation division and has worked in almost every department at the sheriff’s office.

Burchett said when she becomes sheriff she wants to help combat the growing heroin epidemic and improve relationships with the community as well as the Springfield Police Division.

“First of all I want to be a community Sheriff.  I want to be out there in the community at all times.  You know I want the community to let me know what the problem is and how we can fix it,” Burchett said.

Sheriff Gene Kelly holds the record as the longest-running sheriff in the history of Clark County.

“Anytime you bring about change, people are a little resistant to it, but in the case of the sheriff we’re going to bringing in some new ideas and some new presentations and we’ll be approaching crime from a different angle,” Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.

Kelly began his law enforcement career in 1972 as a Springfield Police Division cadet.  He also spent some time work for the Greene County sheriff’s office and Springfield police before making his first run for Clark County sheriff in 1987.

During his 29 years in office he’s been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to improve services, safety equipment and technology for the county, all while lower the crime rate in the area.

A low for Kelly and what he described as one of the worst days in his law enforcement career was the day deputy Suzanne Hopper was shot and killed while on the job new year’s day 2011.

Long-time Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said Kelly has been the charismatic face of law enforcement in Clark County for 29 years.

“Gene Kelly has brought the image of Clark County up, because he’s a very articulate individual,” Detrick said. “He is a 24-7 sheriff, he’s balanced his budget and he works very hard to control crime in Clark County.”

As Clark County sheriff Burchett will be in charge of a $15-mil general fund budget and oversee roughly 200 employees including command deputies, county jail staff, emergency dispatch center and county court bailiffs.

According to Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, Burchett will be the only active female sheriff in the state when she takes over the ranks in January.

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