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FBIagent looks forward to Buckhannon position

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

CLARKSBURG -- The FBI's mandatory retirement policy forced J.C. Raffety to make a difficult decision this week.

If the FBI didn't have a mandatory retirement age of 57, perhaps Raffety would have passed on the opportunity to be Buckhannon's new chief of police.

After all, the FBI was a boyhood dream for Raffety, 51.

"I can't tell you how proud I am and how fortunate I am in my association with the bureau," Raffety said.

But the FBI does have that retirement age, and Raffety, supervisory special agent based out of Clarksburg, is now Buckhannon's police chief.

It's all about timing.

"It was a bittersweet decision, because ... I love the bureau," Raffety said.

Raffety, who has been with the FBI for 32 years, said he recently attended a retirement seminar sponsored by the bureau and was ready to branch off into teaching after his retirement.

But then the Buckhannon job came open after the death of Chief Fred Gaudet. Raffety, who has lived in Buckhannon for the past 17 years, said he was approached by citizens who thought he should apply for the job.

Raffety, a Texas native, said he likes the small-town feel of Buckhannon. It reminds him, he says, of summers he spent as a boy on his grandparents' farm in Illinois.

The Buckhannon job also was a chance for Raffety to stick with his love of law enforcement.

Plus, Raffety had great respect for Gaudet and believes he will be inheriting a department whose employees are "very professional and dedicated."

Raffety, who has degrees from Illinois State and Pitt, has been supervisory special agent since 1996. He supervises 12 special agents and four support employees, who are responsible for investigations in the 32 counties of the Northern District of West Virginia.

He also was a senior resident agent in northern West Virginia from 1983 through 1996.

Raffety and another agent, Leslie D. Hoppey, led the case against the Mountaineer Militia.

Raffety's FBI retirement will be effective March 3, he said.

He said he wasn't sure yet when Buckhannon officials would want him to start as police chief.

The Buckhannon police force has eight officers, including Raffety, plus one civilian employee, Raffety said.

Raffety plans no immediate changes in the policing of the town of 5,500.

"It would be presumptuous of me to consider changes," he said.

"I'm going to take time to familiarize myself with the environment. I'll be reaching out to law enforcement, business, political leaders and citizens."

He also said he will have an "open-door policy not only to officers and employees of the police department, but to any citizen of the community."

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