MORGANTOWN — From dispatcher and jailer to deputy and sheriff, Monongalia County’s Chief Deputy Al Kisner has seen a lot in his 40 years in law enforcement.
“The person working the desk as a dispatcher also worked the jail,” the 61-year-old said. “That’s what I started out doing.”
Of course, Monongalia County no longer has its own jail. It closed in 2001 after the regional jail system was started. Prisoners from this area of the state are now taken to North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County.
The sheriff’s department doesn’t take incoming emergency calls anymore either; that duty was handed off to MECCA911 after it was established in 1989, Kisner said.
In 1978, when Kisner was hired by then-Sheriff Charlie Whiston, he was responsible for dispatching Granville, Westover and Star City police departments, in addition to sheriff’s deputies and all 13 volunteer fire departments.
Kisner said he’s the only remaining member of the department who was hired by the late Whiston. He’s also worked under Sheriffs Joe Janco, Joe Bartolo and now Perry Palmer, and spent eight years as the sheriff himself — from January 2009 to December 2016.
Law allows for county sheriffs to serve just two, four-year terms. They must take at least one term away from the elected office before running again.
Becoming sheriff wasn’t something Kisner set out to do when he joined the department, but he said by 2007, after discussions with Bartolo, he knew he wanted to run. Kisner said he defeated one opponent in his first campaign and was unopposed in his second run.
There have been other big changes to the department during his time. Deputies used to have to buy their own service weapon — either a .38 or .357 revolver. That started changing in 1989 under Bartolo, Kisner said.
This year the department finally owns enough cruisers for every deputy, allowing deputies to take them home. The gives the department a presence felt throughout the county, Kisner said. When he started, deputies shared five cruisers. Even with only 13 deputies that was more than two people sharing each one.
Palmer values Kisner and his experience.
“More than just for the department, he’s an asset to the community,” he said.
Kisner said he knows it’s a cliché, but he loves the fact that his job gives him the ability to work where he lives and make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Palmer said Kisner served on numerous community boards and is deeply involved in the community outside of the uniform, something he’s taken to heart during his term as sheriff.
“I’ve probably learned more about being a sheriff from him than anyone,” Palmer said. Palmer was once Sheriff Kisner’s chief deputy.
Kisner said at one point he was on “eight or nine” boards, including the Valley Mental Health Board and the MECCA911 board.
“It was a commitment that I made because those are things that interested me, because those are things we dealt with directly with this agency,” Kisner said. “I wanted to try and do what I could do to help.”
Kisner said he thought about retiring when Palmer took over, but decided he wasn’t done and would stay on during Palmer’s first term.
“Like I told my wife, if I ever woke up and said I just don’t want to go to work anymore then I’d know it’s time for me to go,” he said. “I haven’t gotten to that point physically or mentally.”
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