What is your current position?
Sheriff of Mason County Michigan
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I think my reason for choosing a career in law enforcement is similar to most others. To help those who cannot, in that moment in time for whatever reason, help themselves. I can remember as a young child riding my bike to the break wall at Lake Michigan and trout fish in the mornings. I never felt unsafe and this was due to a visible City Police Department.
I ran for Sheriff in 2012 because I felt the agency I worked for, the only law enforcement agency I had ever worked for, needed a new direction. One that required a leader to be a person of integrity.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
Ms. Annalyssa Lee sought me out to be part of the Claremont Institute’s inaugural Sheriffs Fellowship. After my conversation with her, I spoke with a friend of mine who works in Lansing Michigan who is a Hillsdale graduate. He gave me great assurance that I was doing the right thing by attending.
One of the best training opportunities I have had!
What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
Wow, what a question! So many great memories. The instructors were the best and brought so much knowledge and insight to the topics.
However, being able to talk with the Claremont President, Mr. Williams, and to learn the history of Claremont and its formation. Being a Michigan Sheriff and learning the Claremont’s connection to Michigan, through Hillsdale College, was special for me.
You were a member of the inaugural year of the Claremont Institute Sheriffs Fellowship. What do you think will make this fellowship unique and relevant in the years to come?
Being part of the first Sheriffs Fellowship will always be special to each of us eight Sheriffs. Although we did not know each other well when we arrived, we walked out with an unbreakable bond. I will always cherish my fellow Sheriffs from the Claremont Institute.
I never saw this day coming to America. A time when Sheriffs are placed in a position to stand in the gap between citizen’s rights and a government that seems to reach further and further over that line. Sheriffs must have a knowledge of where that line is and how to address the overreach with confidence. Claremont provided me with that confidence and their relevancy could not be clearer in my mind in equipping Sheriffs with Constitutional based knowledge.
If you could have a sit-down conversation with Abraham Lincoln, what are a few of the timeless concerns you would discuss with him?
President Lincoln had so many great speeches and insights. I’d probably just sit there for a minute with my mouth hanging open in awe.
Then I would ask him if we experiencing the “death by suicide” he spoke of in his Young Men’s Lyceum address? I would also ask him how is it he saw this day in our nation’s history and if he could prepare others for his type of foresight.
I would ask him if he had it all to do over again, knowing the outcome for him, if he would do it. I wholeheartedly believe he would.
I would also compliment him of his strength to stand up against slavery and how masterfully he navigated our nation through the Civil War and freeing of slaves.
What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?
Wow, so many to choose from! I would have to say the Declaration of Independence. The document masterfully laid out the grievances against the British and was the springboard to the Constitution. Although the Constitution would bring tears to my eyes to hold as well.
What qualities do you believe are necessary for effective leadership?
Integrity, integrity, integrity. A sense of right and wrong and doing the right thing. It is allowing others to exercise their rights afforded them in our founding documents, even if you do not support what that person is saying, a leader must honor ones right to do so non-begrudgingly.
It is having the courage to take a stand for what is right, knowing you may lose support. Part of our Sheriff’s Office Mission Statement states, “doing what is right no matter the cost”. That cost is not financial, it is social or political.
What do you believe is the greatest challenge currently facing the United States?
We are a nation divided with very little common ground. People are willing to stomp you out if your views differ from theirs. The United States Constitution means nothing to these people and they unapologetically will tell you that.
The media fuels their voice and they draw power from them. The media either knows this or they don’t,(but I feel it odd they would not know what they are doing) but regardless the damage is getting to the point of being un-reversible.
What do you believe has led to our established culture redefining itself in the 21st Century?
Sense of entitlement. In today’s society, if something doesn’t go your way, it seems as though one feels it is their right to be disruptive and most will simply say nothing to avoid being “cancelled”.
What book, speech, or movie has left a lasting impression with you and why?
On Sheepdogs and Wolves—William J. Bennett. In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy--November 24, 1997 as told by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
This speech masterfully paints the picture of society as being sheep (honest, hardworking, peaceful people not capable of harming others), Wolves (those who prey upon the sheep) and Sheepdogs (those who will, at all cost, defend and protect the sheep). This is so true!
I am a sheepdog. I live for, and love to, protect the sheep (my community) and I have no fear of a righteous battle against the wolves.
Do you have a favorite quote? Why does it resonate with you?
“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln
This should be ingrained in the minds of every young American when they walk out of high school on their graduation day. This is such a true statement, read it again and prepare for someday your chance WILL come.
What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in Michigan you genuinely admire?
Michiganders are the real deal. They farm—for the love of land and humanity. They work and serve—not only for themselves but also for their neighbor. They love—freedom, giving back, and all the beauty God has given us who live here.
What do you believe are the top three law enforcement issues currently facing America?
Americans need safety and security and this is found in law enforcement. Without it, America will fall into chaos. Right now, many Americans do not feel safe, and often times this is due to poor policy by community leaders and elected officials. Often, in those times, the police officer is faced with “playing catch up” after extreme violence as unfolded.
In addition, the demonization of law enforcement has created voids in agencies through low recruitment and retention of good officers. Police officers today are willing to walk away from the career, sometimes for much less money for less heartache experienced in this field.
Lastly, and certainly not least, is the decriminalization of certain laws. At the very least, the minimization of crime. With this comes the low cash or no cash required bails. These policies are making our streets less safe by the day and creating more victims.
What do you believe can be done to prioritize hardening soft targets in today’s volatile environment, i.e., schools?
In Mason County, we have focused on providing tools to the schools in the form of barricading devices on all countywide school doors. We followed that up with rifle rated ballistic plates and helmets for deputies. We train constantly to better prepare ourselves. The final piece will be School Resource Officers in all schools. DOJ studies concluded that a uniformed officer, in a marked police car, is the #1 deterrent to criminal behavior. SRO’s also help build relationships between law enforcement and our youth. It’s a win-win!
At the end of a stressful day what brings you peace of mind?
As mentioned, Michigan is flush with beautiful scenery and miles upon miles of gorgeous lakeshore bicycling paths. My home county is no exception. I live along the Lake Michigan Shoreline and enjoy my off time bicycling. I set a goal of putting at least 1,000 miles on my bike each summer and I have done so to help me find peace among the craziness.
If you could communicate one thing to politicians and Americans alike about the importance of policing, what would it be?
Keeping integrity in the profession. Police Officers need to be men and women of integrity. I, along with many in law enforcement leadership, welcome scrutiny in our profession; we want better training and the highly qualified candidates. However, there must be an understanding that because we are human, there will be mistakes. With those mistakes must come accountable. Demand accountably for the wrongdoer, not those who honorable serve. Assuming all are guilty because of the mistakes of a few, and demonize law enforcement, will push good men and women away and water down the quality of candidates. When this happens, the mission is lost.
People also need to understand, in order to live in a free society we must have law and order.
And just because…
Congratulations on being named Michigan Sheriff’s Association Sheriff of the Year, 2021.