• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Wilhoit appointed Woodford sheriff

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: Former VPD Chief Johnny Wilhoit will fill the unexpired term of his predecessor, Woodford Sheriff Wayne Wright. He was appointed by Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle on Monday. (Photo by John McGary)

The former Versailles chief of police is the new Woodford County Sheriff. Johnny Wilhoit was appointed to the job by Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle on Monday, a week after Sheriff Wayne Wright's last day on the job. He'll serve until at least the end of next year - and perhaps longer, as he plans to run for a full four-year term. "There were about six individuals that expressed interest in the appointment," said Coyle. "I talked to each of them ... and the last week, it's been on my mind, the proper appointment, what was best for the sheriff's office and the county government and the taxpayers and I took all things into consideration, and I appointed Johnny." Wilhoit retired in October of 2015 after 29 years with the Versailles Police Department (VPD), the last 10 as chief. In a brief interview on the morning of his second day on the job, Wilhoit said he grew interested in the post after he heard Wright planned to retire. "I wanted to get back into county government to serve the people - the people of Woodford County," Wilhoit said. "I mean, we live in the best county in the state and I thought, 'No better place to do it.'" After Wilhoit retired, he worked part-time for the VPD, primarily in cases involving accident reconstruction. Asked how the new job would differ from his old one, Wilhoit smiled and said, "You know, I don't know. We've got a good bunch of people here and ... we're going to start working a whole lot closer with the city police on the drug issues and we're going to take over (next Monday) the funeral escorts. I'm still going to continue to work accident reconstruction with them, so we're going to do a whole lot more working together, and I think that benefits everybody." Wilhoit said the sheriff's department will also begin accepting online tax and mortgage company payments. He'll oversee 20 employees, some of whom are part-time court security officers. Before joining the VPD, Wilhoit was a professional wrestler known as Jumping Johnny Wilhoit, during which time his leaps led to spills that led to a spinal fusion earlier this year. Still a workout enthusiast, Wilhoit, 56, said he'd resumed parts of his gym routine four days after the surgery - perhaps a bit too early, he admitted. Wilhoit is the son of former Kentucky Court of Appeals Chief Judge Tony Wilhoit, who also headed the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and served as Versailles city attorney and Woodford County attorney. When Wilhoit retired as police chief, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott presented him with a key to the city and words of praise. "We're blessed to have him as a chief. We're all blessed to consider him a friend. We're lucky Vince McMahon (the wrestling promoter) never called you ..." Traugott said to laughter.

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