BECKLEY, W.Va. — Growing up in the small Summers County community of Forest Hill, Paul Blume never really gave much thought to what adult life would bring.
“I can’t tell you I wanted to do anything specifically,” he said. “I went to high school to play ball. I was expected to have good grades, but I played sports and went to school because I had to.”
His parents — the late Jim Sr., a two-term Summers County sheriff, and Pat — never pushed their three children in any specific direction. Instead, they simply instilled in them the values they thought would help them succeed down the road.
“My parents came from that generation that didn’t have much,” Blume said. “They worked hard all their lives and really wanted us to have it better than they did.”
Blume’s brother Jim Jr. went on to become a doctor and his sister, Cathy, a teacher, but it took him a few years to find his true calling — one he said he never saw coming.
Although he watched his father, a successful businessman turned state treasury employee, work in law enforcement, Blume said he never gave much consideration to the profession.
“I had zero interest whatsoever,” he says matter-of-factly.
But interests change.
In Blume’s case, it was a desire to combine his newly found law enforcement interest with his love of the outdoors.
“I wanted to be a DNR officer,” he said.
So he began pursuing a degree, first at Concord College and then at Bluefield State.
But in the meantime, testing was offered for positions with both the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department and the Beckley Police Department.
He passed both, but was offered a job with the county first.
“So I became a deputy in 1994,” he said.
A year later, a position came open with the city and he switched over.
Although the original plan was to work for the DNR, Blume said he realized it was best that life took him in another direction.
“I love to hunt and fish, but you’ve got to do the math there,” he said. “Those guys are working the most when I want to be hunting and fishing.”
Blume began his career with the Beckley Police Department Sept. 1, 1995.
During his first 11 years with the department, he spent time as a road officer — mainly in East Park and East Beckley — and then working in investigations as a detective.
In 2006, however, he was named the Southern Regional Highway Safety Coordinator, overseeing Braxton, Fayette, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh and Webster counties.
As one of eight coordinators in the state, Blume is tasked with dispersing federal grant funding to the 36 law enforcement agencies within the counties, helping them fund extra patrols, DUI checkpoints, Click It Or Ticket, Target Red and “anything highway safety related.”
“We pay the officers to do that (extra patrols) and that gives the departments the ability to put more people on the roadways, which is huge for them,” he said.
Blume spends the majority of his time planning, scheduling and coordinating programs and extra patrols with those agencies, but also goes into the communities, promoting highway safety and educating on topics such as child safety seat installation.
“They’re intimidating to a lot of parents,” he said of the different seats and requirements. “There are different ages, weights and types of seats. And all the way up to 8 years of age they have to be in some type of seat if they’re traveling on the roadway.”
The Beckley Fire Department, Blume said, has been a major supporter in his department’s efforts to help parents with seats, regularly hosting free installations.
A different partnership led to a successful venture as well.
In 2008, when a member of United Methodist Temple in Beckley was severely injured when her vehicle was struck by another that had run a red light, members of the church pushed for something to be done about the rampant traffic violations.
Blume’s Southern Regional Highway Safety Program piloted the Target Red program in response, putting extra patrols at intersections to watch for red light violations.
The next year, the two-week program went statewide and continues annually.
“Based on what we did here in Beckley that first year when the community came together, it was spread across the state,” he said. “I’m proud of that because we started it here in my department.”
Although Target Red is something Blume can point to and claim as his own, it’s not what he’s most proud of in his police career.
“We set a record in West Virginia last year with the lowest number of (highway) fatalities with 268,” he said. “Before that, it was between 330 and 400 a year.”
Target Red, Click It Or Ticket, DUI checkpoints, safety seat installations, distracted driving laws and everything each of the highway safety programs work for help reduce that number each year, he said.
“Everything we do is to reduce the number of fatalities,” he said. “Even the DUI checkpoints. The idea is not to arrest someone who comes through the checkpoint. It’s to deter the behavior. The whole idea is awareness.”
Blume celebrated his 21st anniversary with the Beckley Police Department Sept. 1 and his 22nd year in law enforcement in August.
A decade ago, he was joined on the force by his nephew Jamie, James H. Blume III, a K-9 officer.
“He and I are probably more like brothers,” Blume said of his relationship with his nephew, with whom he hunts and fishes regularly back home in Forest Hill. “I don’t get to work with him a lot, but he’s a very good policeman.”
Although he never imagined his life would involve a badge, he said he now can’t imagine having picked a different profession.
He does, however, acknowledge the job has changed a bit through the years.
“It’s more difficult to be a policeman now,” he said, mentioning police violence and violence on police. “Especially for the younger guys coming in.
“I still believe it’s a very honorable profession. Everybody’s got bad apples, but the problem with us is, if there’s a bad apple who makes a bad decision in California, we’re all painted with the same broad brush as him.
“And no one hates a bad cop more than a good cop does.”
Fortunately, Blume said he believes he’s had the opportunity to work with first-class men and women throughout his career, both locally and throughout the state.
And the community, he said, has always been supportive of law enforcement efforts.
“By and large, Beckley and Raleigh County welcome us with open arms and I’m very proud to be here, doing what I’m doing,” he said.
But after 22 years in law enforcement, Blume, who with wife Robin, a nurse practitioner, has two children, son Peyton, 15, and Bria, 11, said he’s beginning to look at other options.
“My dad always told me to keep your options open and keep your doors open. Never shut a door,'” he said, adding he still loves and appreciates his job. “I’ll look and see what’s available when I feel it’s the right time.”
The right time, he said, might be at the end of the year or the first of next year. He also mentioned an interest in politics “down the road.”
And once again, the future is open.
Although he’s not sure what his next step might be, he says it won’t be “sitting on a porch.”
And he’ll still carry with him those values learned years ago in a small community in Summers County.
“Faith in God, family and hard work,” he said. “That’s still what I hold. It was a good philosophy for them (his parents) and it is for me.”
Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com