BELLEVILLE — Newly sworn-in Sheriff Richard "Rick" Watson announced promotions and reassignments Thursday and talked about his plans for the Sheriff's Department.
The announcement came during the annual holiday luncheon for staff members. Audrey Justus, the wife of the late Sheriff, Mearl Justus, was in attendance.
Lt. Scott Weymouth is the new chief of investigations. Sgt. Richard Wagner was promoted to master sergeant.
Wagner has worked at the Sheriff's Department for 17 1/2 years and had been a sergeant for seven years.
"I am honored to be promoted to master sergeant. I plan to continue to do a good job and promote the Sheriff's Department," he said.
Sgt. Karl Pannier was promoted to lieutenant, and Corrections Officer Steve Strubberg was promoted to sergeant. All of the promotions become effective Feb. 3, Watson said.
The jail also has its first female and black administrative assistant -- Annette Tim, who is a 24- year veteran of the department working as a corrections officer in the jail.
"It's a happy occasion. I am very pleased and I am looking forward to doing great things with this department," said Tim.
Watson said the promotions demonstrate that hard work pays off.
"I want them to know that their hard work will be rewarded. It may not always be a promotion, but there are different jobs that they can move into," he said.
Watson assigned Capt. Steve Johnson, who was the chief investigator in the investigative division, to work with the Drug Tactical Unit. Deputy Service Aide Aubrey Parker was assigned to investigations, and Deputy Service Aide Jose Romero, formerly of investigations, was assigned to the Civil Division and Commissary.
Watson joined the Sheriff's Department in February as former Sheriff Mearl Justus' administrative assistant. Justus later promoted him to undersheriff. On Dec. 17, Watson was sworn in as sheriff after the death of Justus.
The department, counting the bailiffs at the courthouse, patrol officers and personnel at the jail, employees between 210-215 people.
Watson said the changes he's implemented were done "to increase efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism, while providing opportunities within the department."
"Customer Service is No. 1. We're just like UPS. We're here to serve. We wear brown uniforms, too," Watson said, chuckling.
Watson said he plans to take an active role in the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff's Department and St. (*130*)lair County Jail.
He told the staff that he may ask questions of them because he would be seeking their input or suggestions on improving efficiency. "I will show up at night to ride and talk with the night shifts," he said.
Watson told staff his schedule is pretty full right now, but "I will be trying to talk with everyone so I can get to know you and you can get to know me," he said.
Watson said he also plans to meet with those who supervise the jail to better learn about its operation.
"Every person is important to the operation of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department "and no one person or position is bigger than the team, he said. " I will demand that everyone treats each other with respect and works as a team to provide efficiency and effectiveness for the citizens of St. Clair County."