Rick Watson said Tuesday that he's honored to fill the unexpired term of former sheriff Mearl Justus, who resigned earlier this month.
The St. Clair County Board voted Monday night to approve Watson's appointment to serve as sheriff until 2014, when voters will decide whether to return him to the sheriff's office.
On Tuesday, Watson was traveling. He said he planned to meet with everyone and get their input on the future of the department, but the more personal meetings are already under way.
"I have been there for eight months and people know me," Watson said. "They come in and talk. I have an open-door policy."
The County Board vote was unanimous, except for Nick Miller, a newly elected Republican from Lebanon, who voted present.
Miller voted present for Watson's appointment because he said he was disappointed in the lack of communication by the county leadership on Justus' resignation.
"I received no notification that Justus had resigned. I learned of it from the BND on Wednesday, then I learned of Watson's selection from the Friday BND," Miller wrote in an email. "I was uninformed about the people that applied for the position and uninformed about their qualifications and experience. I didn't feel as though I could vote yes, but, at the same time, I didn't want to vote no, as I had no issue with Watson himself."
Miller wished Watson well during his time completing Justus' term.
Justus, 81, resigned after a prolonged recovery from gall bladder surgery. He served eight terms as sheriff.
Watson, the former police chief in Cahokia, was serving as the undersheriff under Justus.
Board Chairman Mark Kern last week recommended the board choose Watson to fill the remaining two years on Justus' term.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570.