As the ball dropped in New York City to ring in 2013, Mike Bright’s run as Jackson County Sheriff came to an end.
Bright served two consecutive four-year terms in the position. While December 31 was his last official day, he wrapped up the bulk of his work last week inside the Jackson County Courthouse.
“I said most of my good-byes on Thursday,” Bright said during a phone interview.
Even though Bright was the Sheriff of Jackson County for eight years, he said it is still hard at times to believe he had the good fortune of working for the citizens of the area in that capacity.
It was a true blessing, it really was,” said Bright. “I have met so many people.”
Bright said meeting those people essentially started when he decided to run for Sheriff 10 years ago while he was making his way to the various political functions taking place. “There were friends I never would have come in contact with and I never would have met (had he not gone after the Sheriff’s post and been elected not once, but twice),” he said.
Bright graduated from Point Pleasant High School in 1970. Following high school he served in the Marine Corps from 1970-73. He then worked at a power plant near Gallipolis, Ohio for four years before deciding to enter law enforcement.
“I was use to that adrenalin flow that I got when I was in the Marine Corps,” he said. “I wanted to do something else.”
He became a member of the West Virginia State Police and made his way locally to Ripley in 1978. Bright’s wife, the former Debbie Hudson, is a Ripley native.
For the next 23 years, State Police work was his life. His final job was working for the Parkersburg Drug Task Force. He reached the rank of sergeant during his career.
When I retired from the State Police in 2000, if someone would have said I was going to get involved in politics or run for Sheriff and get elected I would have just laughed at them,” Bright said. “I’d never been in said. “I’d never been involved with politics, didn’t know anything about politics and didn’t want to know anything about it.”
He soon found himself seeking election to the Sheriff’s position in Jackson County.
“I had several people ask me to run. Many veteran organizations like the VFW, American Legion and Marine Corps League encouraged me,” he said.
After winning the election in 2004, Bright faced no opposition whatsoever in the primary or general elections of 2008. “It was a compliment apparently that everybody was happy with the way things were going,” Bright said of his easy re-election.
Page 2 of 2 - He’s proud of the body of work that unfolded during his two terms as Jackson County Sheriff. “I had a lot of goals when I took office. Some of them I was able to reach and some of them there was just never enough time that you could devote to doing it.
“The modernization of equipment is one of several things (he is happy to have accomplished). In the last year or so we’ve bought all new weapons. I think for a department the size of Jackson County they are as state-of-the-art as anywhere in the United States.”
He said the job ran smooth and was enjoyable thanks to the hard-working individuals Bright worked alongside of during his eight-year stint. “I had a bunch of good and capable people, not only on the law enforcement end but the tax office as well,” he said. “Everybody knew what their job was and they did their very best to do it. They are just a very professional bunch.”
Knowing his days of Jackson County Sheriff were winding down, Bright chose to run for a State Senate seat last year. While he didn’t win, Bright enjoyed the experience. “I ran hard and worked at that hard but it didn’t work out,” he said. “I’m proud of the race I ran and to win three of four counties, but it just wasn’t my year. I wish Mitch (Carmichael) all the best.”
Bright will turn 61 next month and is ready to unwind a bit. “I’m just going to kick back and see what happens,” he said.
He will, of course, do so in Jackson County.
This is home to me and will be for the rest of my life. Jackson County is a very, very special place to me.”
The area has long been special and over the course of the past eight years as Jackson County Sheriff, Mike Bright did plenty to help keep it that way.