CHESTER - Ken Thorn's grandson, Ash, is playfully unzipping the front of his grandfather's police chief shirt. The lawman looks down to zip up his shirt, which also has buttons, and says, "I'm talking to this man right now. I'll be with you in just a minute."
Thorn smiles as his grandson gets down from his lap.
When Thorn talks about law enforcement in Chester, he thinks first and foremost about his grandson and the other children in the city. He speaks about "the evils out there" and thinks of himself as a protector of the people.
"My main objective is to provide safety for the younger residents and the older residents," he said. "I don't like to see victims. My heart goes out to victims."
Thorn, 51, recently reflected on his years as Chester's police chief a week after losing the Democratic primary for Hancock County sheriff. Thorn said he has no regrets about running for sheriff or losing the race.
"The people have spoken, and I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "I'm happy with where I'm at. This is the best of both worlds."
Thorn said he decided to run for sheriff because he believed he had something unique to offer as a longtime lawman and as police chief of West Virginia's northernmost city. "I feel I have good communication skills that I could have used as sheriff," he said.
He has been with the police department for 23 years, 17 of those as chief. "A big part of me is here," he said. "I love my town; I love my people."
Thorn was the lowest vote-getter among the three Democratic sheriff candidates. In November, Democrat Ralph L. Fletcher will face Republican Ronald P. Haggerty Sr. in the race for Hancock County sheriff.
Since the May 8 primary, Thorn said people from Chester have been coming up to him and saying, "We're sorry you lost, but we're also glad you lost because now we get to keep you."
Sentiments like that confirm for Thorn that he's in the right place. He said he has no immediate plans to retire, even though, at his age, he can retire by law. Thorn said he wants to retire at the same time as his wife, Mary, who works for the Social Security Administration.
"The more I stay, the more I want to stay and serve the people of Chester," he said. "Why ruin a good thing? Right now it's just perfect."
In addition to police work, Thorn has served the city of Chester as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. As a young adult, he worked for a time for a local pottery.
"By far," he said, "this is the greatest job."