OTTAWA - After three months in office Putnam County Sheriff Mike Chandler said he is still on a learning curve with his new duties.
“On election night everyone was asking what changes I planned,” Chandler said. “I really don’t plan any major changes. There may be a few subtle changes, but that’s about all.”
Chandler brings nearly 30 years of experience in law enforcement to his position as the newly-elected Putnam County Sheriff.
“I’ve done about everything here,” Chandler said. He started with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in 1982 as a part-time deputy. Since then he has served as a road patrol deputy, sergeant, investigator, and with the drug unit.
“Being behind this desk is totally different,” Chandler admitted. “Before I was out dealing with people’s problems. Now I’m dealing with budget concerns and personnel issues.”
“I imagine every deputy wonders at some time what it would be like being sheriff,” Chandler said. “I think the most difficult thing for me in this position is dealing with personnel issues. The thing I most enjoy is the challenge of this job,” Chandler said.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s office currently has 40 full time deputies including 18 jail employees, 12 road deputies, 2 investigators, 2 in the drug unit and 1 courthouse employee. This does not include the 911 dispatchers, which is separate, but operates out of the Sheriff’s Office. There are also several part-time and special deputies.
“This is the same staff we have when I began working in 1982,” Sheriff Chandler. “This staff is doing ten times the work load they were doing then.”
Chandler said in 2012 the Sheriff’s Office handled 6,872 complaints, 6,300 fire calls, and 3,090 EMS runs. The 911 operation handled 6,815 calls for the 12 police agencies in Putnam County.
Chandler also said the jail in 1982 on Hickory Street in Ottawa, was a 10-bed facility. The new jail that opened in 2002 can house up to 76 inmates. Last year the Jail took in $365,000 housing out-of-county prisoners.
Ongoing important programs at the Sheriff’s Office include the Special Response Team that includes tactical training to respond to any situation including a dive team to provide water rescues.
“With all the waterways and ponds in this county it would be stupid not to have a dive team,” Sheriff Chandler said.
Chandler said there are many programs planned by the sheriff’s office. Some are already scheduled and others are in preliminary planning stages.
A prescription drug-drop off is planned for April 27. This year’s event is set to take place at two locations. In the morning, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. you can drop off your prescriptions at the Continental Fire Department, located on Main Street (SR 634.)
In the afternoon a drop off for prescriptions will be available from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Kalida Fire Station located downtown on US224.
“I thought having two locations might make it easier for some people,” Chandler said. “Some of the elderly may not like driving far and this will make it more convenient for them.”
Chandler said there is also a prescription drug drop off box in the Sheriff’s Office for the public’s convenience to drop off their drugs at any time.
Another program to be implemented in the county is Operation Lifesaver.
Chandler said the Operation Lifesaver program is a state-funded program that provides GPS tracking bracelets for those with Alzheimer’s or other medical conditions where a resident may become disoriented and wander off.
“This will make it so much easier for our office to locate those individuals,” Chandler said. “There is no cost for us. The state funds everything including supplies we will need.”
Programs still in initial planning stages at the Sheriff’s office include starting a Citizens’ Academy for Putnam County residents.
“This is an improved version of the old ‘block-watch’ program,” Chandler said. He said it helps teaches residents how not to be4come a victim. “We can teach people what current scams are going on and how to avoid becoming involved.” He said with technology scams now not only include door-to-door and phone scams but internet scams.
“Crime as we used to know it has changed a lot,” Chandler said. “We used to teach people to watch out for the unusual stranger in a neighborhood. Now those days are gone and more crimes are conducted by the internet and phone.”
Chandler said he is also looking into a pre-teen prevention program. “This may help them remember consequences of the choices they make as they enter the teen years,” he said.
The sheriff said he is hoping to make the sheriff’s office more accessible to the public.
“I’m still learning about my duties though,” he acknowledged.
New sheriff enjoys role