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Sheriff Larry Stelma announces retirement

Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma (right) was chosen as the first ever recipient of the Terrence L. Jungel Sheriff of the Year Award in 2017 by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Terrence Jungel is on the left.

 

Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma announced last week that he will retire from his position on November 1, 2018.

“For 46 years I have had the privilege of serving this community, and I consider this privilege a gift from God,” Sheriff Stelma said as he notified the Kent County Board of Commissioners of his intent to retire November 1, 2018. While the decision to retire was difficult, the Sheriff emphasized that he is “confident that the next generation of leadership will serve this community well and bring this organization to new heights.”

Stelma began his career at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office on January 3, 1972, as a deputy working various duties in the jail and eventually transferring to the road patrol. As a detective in the investigative bureau, he was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Combat Star for his efforts to save his partner when a domestic violence suspect shot that officer in the chest in 1980. In August 1981, Stelma was promoted to sergeant on the road patrol; in 1985, he was promoted to road patrol lieutenant; and promoted to road patrol captain in January 1997. In January 1999, Stelma was appointed to serve as Kent County’s Undersheriff. On January 1, 2001, he was elected by the citizens of Kent County to serve as their Sheriff. He has since been re-elected Kent County Sheriff for five consecutive terms.

In 2017 he was named “Sheriff of the Year” by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Sheriff Stelma’s investment in his staff, and his strong belief in mentorship have been key elements that have developed the Kent County Sheriff’s Office into one of the most innovative and strategic departments in the country.

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to work for a leader whose fundamental goal is to guide and develop his staff through mentorship. His approach to mentorship and his unwavering leadership are directly tied to the culture we are so proud of at the KCSO,” Undersheriff LaJoyeYoung said. “We will miss him dearly and we wish him all the best on his next adventure.”

In a recent staff meeting, the Sheriff was asked what he plans to do in retirement. “A whole lot more hunting and fishing,” he responded, with his famous half smile and a nod. Sheriff Stelma has submitted his intent to retire to the County Clerk, and the legislated process to appoint a replacement will be occurring once the statutorily required appointing authority has been assembled.

Stelma is a longtime Cedar Springs resident and has given back to his community in a number of ways. 

Two particular initiatives that have affected Cedar Springs include the City and Sheriff Department partnership on police services, and the school resource officer at Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Stelma was integral in the creation of the partnership between the City and the Sheriff Department in 2015, the first time anything like that had been done in Kent County. The Cedar Springs Police Department was dissolved, and the full-time officers were offered jobs at the Kent County Sheriff Department, and a chance to serve in Cedar Springs. Sgt. Jason Kelley oversaw the Cedar Springs Unit until earlier this year, until Sgt. Todd Probst took over. The unit works out of the former police area at City Hall.

Cedar Springs was not the first public school to employ a Kent County Sheriff Deputy as a school resource officer, but the Sheriff Department did partner with the district to help fund the program. SROs work to improve school safety by investigating school-related incidents and take a proactive approach to improve the security of the campus, staff, and students.

Thank you, Sheriff Stelma, for your service, and the Post wishes you a happy retirement!

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