Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl is hanging up his badge, retiring after a nearly 30 year career in law enforcement. Sholl said he is filled with mixed emotions as he nears his final day on the job.
“I’ll miss the people here,” said Sholl while sitting behind his desk. “They come and go obviously. Retirements happen and people might have other opportunities they want to pursue. I won’t necessarily miss the job because 29 years is a long time to be doing anything, but I will certainly miss the people.”
Sholl said he did not dream of being in law enforcement as a child. Instead, he said he was working at a meat packing plant in Monmouth, Illinois when he answered an advertisement in a newspaper. Sholl said over the years, his time in law enforcement began to feel like a calling.
“I think this occupation attracts people who are willing to serve,” said Sholl.
Sholl said looking back over his career, his best day happened on a day when he wasn't working. He was on vacation with his family in St. Louis when he spotted a 15-year-old girl floating face-down in a pool.
Sholl said he and his wife got the girl out of the pool and performed CPR, saving her life.
“Certainly, when you are in the occupation of serving people, with the stats on CPR being maybe 2% survival, I certainly feel good about that,” said Sholl. “I often wonder where her life went, I never knew her name.”
On the flip side, he could not identify a specific day as his worst while in uniform, though he added his worst day is any day a law enforcement officer is injured or killed anywhere in the world.
“When we are putting on this uniform and we are missing our families and we are seeing things no one should ever see and we may be ambushed or simply killed in the line of duty, that’s a sad day,” said Sholl.
It’s the idea that law enforcement officers are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice that seems to frustrate Sholl the most about how the perception of them has changed. He believes social media is being used to damage the reputation of law enforcement officers.
“Everyone now believes they are a journalist,” said Sholl. “They capture snippets of life and throw it on the internet and people believe what they see is true. There is very little fact-finding in that venue and I think that reflects poorly on law enforcement or on any other occupation that comes under scrutiny.”
Sholl did not seek re-election in November. He will be replaced by Stacy Weber, who led the Lee County Narcotics Task Force for years before stepping down after being elected Sheriff.
Weber will take the oath of office on Jan. 3, 2017. Sholl said the best advice he could give Weber is to take his time.
“You don’t have to do everything on Day One,” said Sholl. “Time is always on our side. I used to tease our administrative team: I don’t plan for tomorrow, I plan for five years from tomorrow. Take your time to make your decision and explore all of the possible consequences of that decision.”
Sholl said at this point, he does not know what the future holds for him.
“There’s a wide range of opportunities out there. I’m not going to jump into anything too quickly, but I’m certainly not going to sit around with daytime television.”