St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said Thursday he recommends the County Board appoint Rick Watson as sheriff to fill the unexpired term of longtime sheriff Mearl Justus, who resigned on Tuesday.
The St. Clair County Board will vote on Monday to accept Watson's appointment until 2014, when he would have to run for the seat that Justus held for eight terms.
"There was much interest in the position and we heard from a lot of great applicants," Kern said. "We look forward to working with Rick Watson and we have great confidence that he will do a wonderful job as sheriff."
When Kern accepted Justus' resignation, he appointed Watson as sheriff until the County Board voted to name someone to fill Justus' term.
Watson was humbled to get the nod from Kern.
"I really appreciate it," Watson said.
The sheriff's annual salary for 2012 is $95,899.
Watson does not plan any personnel changes, but does intend to implement new programs to get tougher on crime in high-crime areas.
"I'm a big teamwork guy. I am going to talk it all over with my command staff so I can get their ideas and make some decisions," Watson said. "The important thing is that I am going to listen to everyone. Everyone is going to have a voice."
In 1979, when Justus was the Cahokia police chief, he hired Watson. Justus mentored Watson throughout his career, Watson said.
Justus, 81, had been sheriff since 1982.
Justus has been recovering from a gall bladder surgery and moved into an assisted living community last month.
Watson retired as Cahokia Police chief in 2011. A few months after his retirement, he went to work at the sheriff's department. He became the undersheriff last week.
Watson said Thursday that he does intend to run for sheriff in 2014.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at email@example.com or 618-239-2570.