ATHENS — Those who enter Athens from the north may have noticed a Mercer County Sheriff’s Department cruiser parked beside the car wash on weekdays. The reason has to do with a long-time highway safety initiative operated through the West Virginia Governor’s Office.

MCSD Sgt. Adam Ballard, the Region Coordinator for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program for Region 8, which includes Mercer County, said on Friday, “(The office) is technically part of Region 8 of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program which is otherwise known as the Coalfields Highway Safety Program.”

The GHSP, he added, is funded through grants provided by the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both programs are initiatives of their respective Departments of Transportation.

“I started with the Sheriff’s Department about 20 years ago and the program was in place then,” he said.

According to the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles web site, the purpose of GHSP is to encourage, promote, and support highway safety throughout West Virginia. Ballard added that enforcement and community education about highway safety issues such as driving while impaired/under the influence and seat belt usage are the main priorities of the program.

He then said the office was relocated from Bluefield State College to Athens because the newer location gave the program easier access to most of the county as well as the Courthouse.

“We moved here in October and we’ll be here for at least awhile,’ Ballard said.

In addition to Mercer, counties which are a part of Region 8 are McDowell, Mingo, Monroe, Pocahontas, Summers and Wyoming counties.

The office is staffed by Ballard and a clerk most of the time on weekdays, barring them having to go to another county in the region.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter for the Princeton Times. Contact him at

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