Lawman Set to Retire
MIDDLEBOURNE — Boxes of memories were stacked on Earl “Bob” Kendle Jr.’s desk as he makes plans for what to do next. The longtime lawman is retiring after 38 years on the beat – the last eight years as sheriff.
“For awhile, I’d just like to do nothing for a month or so, then try to find something. I haven’t really got any plans. I like to fish. I like to hunt. Our family is just outside Paden City; I go there all the time. So, I intend to stay busy.”
The walls in Kendle’s office were bare and his firearm was housed in its black holster on top of some books on his desk. He’s kept dozens of scrapbooks filled with stories about the sheriff’s department.
“I had to force myself to start packing,” he said. “There’s certificates that I had on the wall and there’s things I’ve picked up. Awards. Stuff from when I was a school resource officer. I’m going to take it, put it somewhere until I figure out what to do with it.”
Kendle’s time as sheriff comes to close when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31.
“The low point of my career is right now having to retire. I have mixed feelings on that. This is all I’ve ever done,” he said. “This is my family. I grew up here.”
The manner of his voice was not nostalgic so much as lawman because his stories had a clipped, get down to business quality that differs from most other professions. Ask any lawyer to recall the last 40 years and you might as well pull up a chair and rent a room at the Wells Inn for the night.
Kendle, 59, who grew up on his father’s farm outside Paden City, said he knew from time he was 9-years-old that he wanted a career in law enforcement. Thirty-eight years later, Kendle knows he made the right decision to serve the community.
“This is all ever done since I was 18 years old is law enforcement. The best part of law enforcement? You meet some very nice people,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with people. I like working with people. I’ve met some good people, good folks.”
A 1975 graduate of Paden City High School, Kendle completed the 36th Basic Police Course at the State Police Academy and has completed numerous specialized training courses. During his long tenure in law enforcement, Kendle has worked for the Middlebourne Police Department and as a radio/teletype operator for the State Police detachment in Paden City. He served as the first certified school resource officer at Tyler Consolidated High/Middle School for four years. Kendle served as a deputy sheriff for nearly 28 years along with being Sistersville’s police chief for about 18 months prior to being elected as sheriff in 2008. He was named as Police Officer of the Year in 1985 by the Sistersville Jaycees.
Kendle was elected as sheriff in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Due to state law, Kendle was not allowed to run for a third consecutive term as sheriff. He threw his hat in the magistrate’s race, but after a hard fought campaign, came up short.
Looking back over nearly 40 years of history makes anyone pause, think about what could have been.
“I don’t know if I would do much differently really,” Kendle said. “I’m satisfied. I tried to treat people like I would want to be treated. I tried to do the best job I can for the people. There were probably some things I could change. There’s always something you can change for the better.”
Sheriff’s deputies put in long hours filing paperwork, pursuing leads and questioning witnesses.
Kendle is an investigator whose firm voice and piercing blue eyes can give a suspect a look that makes a confession the best option. Kendle recalled the arson/murder of Mary Sherwood in 1989.
“I knew everyone’s name, their dog’s name, their kids name, everybody on Elk Fork, Three-Mile Hill and Reader,” he said.
This blood hound didn’t rest until but kept on working the case.
“We got that guy,”Kendle said. “It was an intense investigation. We worked 40 hours straight, took a six hour break and then worked 48 more straight. At the end of that 48, we had the guy in jail. Just me and the sheriff at that time; there wasn’t any other deputies. We were doing everything.”
The sheriff’s department and W.Va. State Police serve on the front lines of the war. The drug problem isn’t unique to Tyler County, but there’s no denying that things are different than they were twenty years ago.
“The influx of this oil field stuff, drugs are rampant I never thought I’d say this; I wish it would go back to simple marijuana instead of what we have today,” he said. “Things began to shift about 10 years ago. Drugs started coming in as the Marcellus shale people started coming around. Stuff like that.
During Kendle’s time, he’s seen drugs change Tyler County.
“We have a bad drug problem here,” he said. “People don’t see it, but they hear about it. Unless they know someone involved in the experiences of that, they don’t really realize what’s going on here.”
Kendle said the law enforcement is making a difference.
“We’ve made a dent. We haven’t done what I’d like to do run everybody out here that’s doing that,” he said. “We put several people in jail, but that’s not the cure for drug trafficking. Maybe if you get the big guys, the kingpins these people around here are not the kingpins; they are just carriers and runners. They are coming in from Detroit, Wheeling, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia you name it all the big cities; it’s coming here.”
Tyler Sheriff’s Department has changed too. Once upon a time, it was tiny department with one or two deputies and a sheriff. Today, there are nine deputies and office staff that work the beat 365 days a year.
“I’ve seen the department grow from the sheriff and two deputies working downstairs in the basement of the courthouse,” Kendle said. “We had to split a car. Sheriff had his own vehicle. The deputies had to split a car. Today, deputies have their own cruiser. It’s just progressed over the years and I hope it keeps progressing.”
Kendle is optimistic about the future of law enforcement in Tyler County.
I’m satisfied with my career. There were some things I want to get done that I didn’t get done. I wanted to get enough guys to have two guys out on a midnight shift. I didn’t get that but I think the next sheriff will. I think if we continue growing like we have, it will happen.”
Though Kendle is a spry 59-year-old, has made no future plans to return return to law enforcement in four years or eight years.
“I’m hopefully still going to be retired,” he said.
Hunting and fishing aside, Kendle said he plans to visit his son Matt, who lives in North Carolina, as well as his daughter Angela and grandchildren, who lives in Las Vegas. A history buff, Kendle plans to do more reading. The current book he is reading is “Rebel Yell” about General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
I love anything that has to do with history,” he said. “Anything that has to do with a real life situation I’ll read it. Wars, social things, anything. I love Civil War stuff.”
In the end, a man is measured by his service to others.
“I owe Sheriff Kendle a debt of gratitude,” Deputy Mitch Corley said. “He took a chance on a young kid with very little experience when he hired me as a patrolman at Sistersville PD. After he was elected, he took me under his wing once again by bringing me on at the Sheriff’s Office. Without his guidance and mentorship throughout my career, I would not be the deputy I am today.”
Kendle served as a School Resource Officer – setting a lasting example.
“Bob was our first School Resource Officer and set the standard for what a resource officer should be for our schools,” Superintendent Robin Daquilante said. “He had a special relationship with our students and they trusted him and often went to him when they had a problem. As Sheriff, he’s always been a friend and supporter of our schools. He will be missed.”