A new era at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department began earlier this week.
Sheriff Rick Meyer took over the office at midnight Jan. 1, succeeding Sheriff Mike Carothers, whose term ended Monday.
The transition of power to the county’s top law enforcement office was on display as Carothers was pictured handing the key to the jail to Meyer on Tuesday.
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That moment — one in the making since his Nov. 6 election — was special for the 48-year-old Seymour Republican. So was taking the oath of office from State Sen. Eric Koch on Dec. 20 with his wife, Jennifer, and their children by his side.
Meyer said taking the oath was something he won’t forget, as he had many family members there to witness it.
“I think I had 25 or 30 there, and to have them all with me there that night was pretty special,” he said. “It was also special watching all the other elected officials take their oath — a really exciting night.”
Meyer administered the oath of office to staff earlier this week and said it was humbling.
“It was nice to let their families come in and see the process and how important it is,” he said. “Seeing the children here for it was special, too.”
Meyer has assembled his administration and said he is satisfied with those he has chosen to help lead the department. Officer Dustin Steward will be the chief deputy, and Adam Nicholson will serve as a lieutenant. Former jail officer Chris Everhart will now serve as jail commander.
Meyer said having quality individuals in leadership positions will bring success to the department. He said it was something he valued when he considered forming his team to guide the department’s operations.
“The important thing is to surround yourself with good people, so I feel I surrounded myself with good people with high values and morals,” he said. “I think everyone here wants to do things the right way, and that was what was most important to me when I was picking my administration.”
With the formalities of taking office taking behind him, Meyer said he is ready to get to work.
He said his top priority now is to fill the department’s vacancies with a few retirements that have either taken place or are anticipated.
Carothers retired when he left office, wrapping up a 32-year career in law enforcement, all with the department.
Meyer said Carothers was emotional when he left for the last time.
“He put a lot into Jackson County,” he said. “He did a good job as sheriff because we do have a lot of quality individuals working here.”
Lt. Andy Wayman is set to retire at the end of the month, and Tom Barker, a detective, retired last month.
“We’re shorthanded right now, but everyone is willing to help out,” Meyer said. “It’s a little tough, but it’s all hands on deck trying to answer the calls and take care of business.”
There’s a little help on the road by transitioning Sgt. Stan Darlage from court paper service to regular officer duties. The service was converted into a civilian position, and Meyer hired former Sheriff Jerry Hounshel.
“I think his experience is great to have,” Meyer said.
The process to fill the other positions already has started to take place. Meyer said the merit board met this week and plans to have a physical and written test later this month and will begin the interview process.
“Maybe the second week of February will be when we can hire someone,” he said. “We’re trying to make it a fast-moving process.”
If the new officer already has been to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, then it will be months to a year before they can start. If they are from another department and have been through all of the training, it will only be a matter of weeks, Meyer said.
Another priority is simply getting organized and helping everyone get settled into their roles. Meyer said he has met with jail officers, dispatchers and other staff to discuss expectations.
He also has been working on basic items like the jail’s infrastructure.
“As sheriff, I’m also in charge of this building, so there’s some things that need fixed that I’m becoming aware of or need be changed,” he said.
Meyer said he wants to deliver a few items he campaigned on when he ran for the office.
He said starting a K-9 unit is something he would like to do soon. There has never been a K-9 unit for the sheriff’s department, and it could be a big help with the department’s drug cases. When he campaigned, Meyer said he thought the community would be willing to support the program, limiting the costs to taxpayers.
“I want to hit the ground running,” he said.
Transitioning from campaigning to taking office has not been difficult, Meyer said, because he felt he didn’t change just because he was seeking office. He also felt he was prepared to become sheriff.
“I am who you see, so I don’t feel like it changes much,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s anything different.”
Still, the campaign was a lengthy one, beginning in the days leading up to the 2017 Jackson County Fair. Meyer emerged as the winner of a four-way primary race for the Republican nomination, and then defeated Democrat Jeff Walters, who remains at the department.
Meyer said the work is just beginning, and he understands the importance of the office and will take his job seriously.
“I knew this was going to be a big job, and I am ready to do it,” he said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer’s administration
Chief deputy: Dustin Steward
Lieutenant: Adam Nicholson
Lieutenant: Andy Wayman
Sergeant: Stan Darlage
Jail commander: Chris Everhart
Matron: Linda Jo Brown