The Payne County Sheriff’s Office is in transition, with new Sheriff, Joe Harper, taking office Monday and several staff members retiring at the end of 2020 or moving into new jobs within the department.
The department held a going away party last week for outgoing Sheriff Kevin Woodward, along with Investigator George Disel, who served 42 years in law enforcement, Deputy Joe Staley, who served 52 years in law enforcement, Deputy Charley Lawson, who served 15 years in law enforcement after a 25 year career with the Stillwater Fire Department and Evidence Clerk Frank Jones, who served 10 years with the Sheriff’s Office after a 31 year career with the U.S. Postal Service.
Woodward spoke with the News Press on Friday as he finished up a project to upgrade the department’s servers that store records like jail bookings, radio logs and non-emergency phone calls. He said he wanted to finish the project so the systems would be in good shape for Harper and for the citizens of Payne County.
Woodward said an exit audit and inventory is being performed by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office and should be complete in the next few weeks. It’s standard when a new elected official comes in, he said.
He believes he’s leaving the department in good financial shape for Harper. State law requires an outgoing official to leave half the state allocated funds available for the new elected official because people take office in the middle of the fiscal year.
Harper should have about $840,000 left from the $1.6 million sales tax fund, which helps cover the cost of running the Payne County Jail. The jail’s total annual budget is $3.4 million.
Woodward said thanks to an estimated $800,000 from the jail’s contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to hold federal prisoners and about $1 million in reimbursed payroll and expenses from federal Coronavirus relief, PCSO should have about $8.5 million total to work with this fiscal year, compared to about $7.4 million last year.
Woodward recently spent $250,000 from the Payne County Jail’s facilities authority fund to upgrade the servers and replace some equipment that Harper told the News Press had been in the jail since it opened 12 years ago.
Harper was part of that decision-making and purchasing process.
“I have spent quite a bit recently but I didn’t do anything without Joe,” Woodward said. “I asked what he wanted and he said he wanted the jail up to condition.”
Harper said he is anxious to get started but knows he’ll have his hands full.
He has already talked to the Payne County Commissioners, who also serve as the trustees of the Payne County Jail Trust Authority, about what he believes the jail needs. And the audit is revealing some changes that need to be made in how records are kept.
He said it has become clear his team has a lot of work to do.
“We’re ready,” he said. “...Bear with us, it’s going to take a little time.”
Harper said there were a few retirements this year but most of the staff has stayed on and he’s glad he’ll be able to rely on people who have been with the department for 20 years or more to give his team guidance.
Woodward’s Undersheriff Chris Nixon is staying on but moving to the rank of Lieutenant. Harper has named Transport Deputy Marvin Noyes as his Undersheriff.
Lt. Paul Fox will be promoted to the role of Captain.
Capt. Reese Lane will continue as administrator of the Payne County Jail.
Woodward said he is grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Payne County for 12 years.
He joined the department in 2009, moving from Logan County, where he had started as a dispatcher/jailer in 1994 and worked his way up to Undersheriff by 2000. For the past 18 months Woodward was Payne County’s Sheriff after being appointed to fill the remainder of his former boss R.B. Hauf’s term.
He was defeated by Harper in an Aug. 25 runoff for the Republican nomination for Sheriff.
Woodward called being Payne County Sheriff a “bucket list dream job” and said “The only thing I want to say is thank you … It’s been a dream.”
Harper will take his oath of office at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Payne County Courthouse before Judge Phillip Corley along with District 2 Commissioner Chris Reding, County Clerk Glenna Craig and Court Clerk Lori Allen who were all automatically re-elected after no other candidates filed for those offices.