SIDNEY — Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart has been named the 2015 Ferris E. Lucas Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriffs’ Association.
He said he was humbled and shocked Thursday afternoon.
“A year ago, my employees put my name in for Sheriff of the Year,” Lenhart said. “If I had known they were going to do that, I wouldn’t have allowed them.”
Lenhart said he was chosen from 100 candidates from across the United States.
“You have to be recommended by someone in your office,” Lenhart said. “Last year, the Sheriff of the Year was from Las Vegas, the year before that, from Los Angeles.”
“I nominated Sheriff Lenhart two years ago for this award and am very happy that he has been selected,” Chief Deputy James R. Frye said. “I believe John’s career speaks volumes for the type of leader he is and what he brings to the table. He returned as sheriff during a traumatic time for the office and I truly believe he has turned around the image of the office. He has implemented many programs that bring not only financial support but also a sense of well-being of the public’s perception of what we do at the office. I believe this is not only positive for the Sheriff’s Office but also Shelby County and the state of Ohio.”
The organization, he said, has been presenting the award for 20 years.
“I’m the first sheriff from the state of Ohio to get the award,” he said.
The award, Lenhart said, is based on years of service and contributions to society.
“He’s very deserving of this honor,” Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann said. “He came to the county when we were in a bad situation. He has turned things around for us.”
Ehemann said Lenhart’s entire life has been dedicated to service to his county.
“It’s very exciting,” Ehemann said. “He has spent a lifetime of dedicated service to his country.”
“This award is not just about me,” Lenhart said. “It’s about the men and women who work here — who do the heaving lifting day in and day out. They have helped put me where I am today. I haven’t forgotten how I’ve gotten here.”
Lenhart said he has been blessed in his 40-plus year career by the employees he’s worked with and the county commissioners.
“The county commissioners have addressed the needs of the Sheriff’s Office,” Lenhart said.
The award brings a full cycle of giving home full force for Lenhart.
“Thirty years ago, I was at a sheriff’s conference,” Lenhart said. “One of the sheriffs there knew I was in agri-business and asked if I knew of anyone who had extra hay.”
The county in Georgia where there sheriff lived was in the midst of a three-year drought, and farmers were selling off their livestock because they had nothing to feed them.
“I came back to my church in Kettlersville and asked for hay,” Lenhart said. “I was hoping to fill one semi of hay for the sheriff. I kind of missed that goal — I got three semis full of hay.”
Today, the son of that sheriff Lenhart met so many years ago has taken over for his father and is now sheriff. The son is on the steering committee that helped select the Sheriff of the Year. He remembered the good deed that Lenhart did for his family all those years ago.
He will receive his award June 28 during the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Baltimore. He will be presented a statue of a sheriff during the ceremony.
“I’ve been told by the president of the group that I have to keep my remarks short as he has to hold the 50-pound statue while I’m talking,” Lenhart said.
“They will also honor a Deputy of the Year,” he said, “and the survivors of all the deputies killed in the line of duty will also be recognized.”