CLARKSBURG -- Next year, Harrison County gets its third prosecutor in two years.
Current Prosecutor Joe Shaffer announced Tuesday he no longer plans to run for election this year, even though he had filed Jan. 21 for the primary.
Shaffer said he plans to return to private practice in the Clarksburg area, with more of an emphasis on civil litigation. He termed it a "positive personal move."
Shaffer, 43, of Clarksburg, was appointed almost exactly a year ago to complete the unfinished term of John Scott, a fellow Democrat who resigned under pressure. Shaffer said he would finish the term.
"I don't believe in walking away from a job that you asked for," he said.
Shaffer's decision leaves just one person in the primary for Harrison prosecutor, at least temporarily. The only other person to file was Harrison County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Andre, 34, of Bridgeport, who turned in his papers by mail on the final day for registering. Andre, also a Democrat, was hired by Scott in June 2002 and retained by Shaffer.
But Andre is not yet elected. The Republican Party has until Feb. 13 to appoint a candidate to fill the ballot vacancy in the primary. Write-in candidates cannot run in the primary. But write-in candidates can run for the prosecutor's office in the general election, as long as they register three weeks before the November election. So that, too, remains a possibility.
Andre plans to begin campaigning immediately, and declined to speculate whether he anticipates opposition.
"Whatever will be will be," he said.
His campaign will not involve promises of widespread change in the office, Andre said.
"At this point in time, if I was elected, I don't see any reason to break up a team that is really working well," Andre said of the current staff in the office. "I don't intend to be a boat rocker."
"He will make an excellent prosecuting attorney and will keep the team of attorneys and support staff I have assembled in place under his administration," Shaffer said Tuesday.
He did not completely make up his mind until over the weekend, Shaffer said. He also said he was waiting to see if someone else would file, because he didn't want the county's Democratic Executive Committee to have to appoint a candidate for the primary, as it had appointed him to replace Scott. When no one stepped forward within 10 days, Shaffer informed Andre of his intention not to run, Shaffer said, and Andre filed for the office.
Shaffer added that while he does not plan to run for prosecutor again, he would not rule out a potential future run for another public office.
The toughest part of his job as prosecutor so far, Shaffer said, came in the earliest part of his administration. That was when he replaced some employees, and had to meld together the new workers with those who had been on staff before. A first key task, Shaffer indicated, was getting that staff to function as a team, focused on work instead of "all the hoopla that went on for three years."