County jail warden retiring after 26 years

January 3, 2013
Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, left, who also chairs the county prison board, congratulates jail Warden Joseph Pelzer on his pending retirement.

Joseph Pelzer, the last warden of the old Washington County jail and the first and only warden of the Washington County Correctional Facility, has informed the county commissioners he intends to retire next month.

Pelzer, 58, of Charleroi, said through an email Wednesday afternoon that his retirement will take effect Feb. 22, which happens to be the birthday of the county’s namesake, George Washington.

“My goal was to make it through 2012 and continue with my future in 2013,” Pelzer said Thursday. “Right now, I’m going to retire and figure out my options and move on from there.”

The warden said he plans a smooth transition for Deputy Warden John Temas, who intends to seek the warden’s position.

Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, who is also chairman of the county prison board, said Thursday, “We got the notice yesterday. The warden has done an excellent job. We will be conducting a search. We’ve had great reports and certifications from the state Department of Corrections. We just received another 100 percent compliance.”

Maggi, who also was Washington County sheriff and is a retired state trooper, said of Pelzer, “You’re dealing with some of the roughest and toughest immoral people you have to deal with in our society. They’re looking for ways to get out, and they’re looking for ways to hurt people.

“I hate to see him go.”

Pelzer began working for the county as a part-time corrections officer in 1984 and later became a jail counselor for about a year. He was named deputy warden under Warden Robert Poland and assumed the top post in 1987 after Poland retired.

As warden, Pelzer oversees about 100 employees. In his most recent report to the prison board through the end of November, the jail population was 317 - 269 men and 48 women.

The new jail opened in 1996 and the old jail, built in 1898, was converted at a cost of about $5 million as the Washington County Family Court Center, which houses a courtroom, hearing rooms, a booking center and office space.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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