Barry County sheriff will not seek re-election
Epperly: 'It's been quite a ride'
After 28 years in law enforcement and five consecutive terms as Barry County sheriff, Mick Epperly announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.
Epperly made the announcement Tuesday afternoon in front of 23 of his office's employees, fighting back emotions as he thanked his staff and discussed his reasons for leaving the post in 10 months.
"It was a tough decision," he said. "When I took [a job at the sheriff's office] in 1989, my goal was to make Barry County a better place to live, and when I ran for the first time in 1996, the signs I put out said I'd be fair, honest and caring. I believe I have run my system that way throughout [my tenure]."
Epperly said the reasons for his decision vary, including stress and difficulty of the job, health issues, tough campaigns and just feeling it is time to pass the torch.
"I've had some health issues, and my doctor said a lot of that is caused by stress," he said. "Right now, as kids are growing up, it's a different world. They have no respect for their parents or for law enforcement, and the job is getting tougher. It's a battle.
"I just think it's time to move on and pass the torch to someone else."
Despite the challenges he's faced in nearly 20 years on the job, Epperly said law enforcement will always be special to him.
"After 28 years in law enforcement, I still love it," he said. "We've caught some big dope dealers and murderers, and I'm very proud of what we've accomplished. I don't like to sit behind the desk and went out on a lot of cases. I like to be the person to knock down the door on a lot of them."
Epperly said many things have changed since he first put on a badge.
"When I first started, we didn't even have computers," he said. "We had three deputies and used our personal vehicles. A lot of times at home, we'd leave the vehicles running because we knew we'd be going out again. When I started we only has 32 beds in the jail, and now we have 88."
Epperly said one accomplishment he is particularly proud of is getting "In God We Trust" decals put on all the office's vehicles.
"I felt very strongly about putting [the decals] on the cars. At the sheriff's association meeting, I said if we're going to do it, we should do it in unity," he said. "That message is so strong today. Who do you trust if you can't trust in God?"
Epperly said with the good times came the bad, such as when the office lost an officer in 1996, an event weighing in on his initial decision to run.
"I had sold that officer my patrol car, and he was using my badge number and working my shift," he said.
Despite some of the challenges and the toll he said campaigning took on him, Epperly said he is proud of everything he's done.
"I have had a lot of people support me throughout the years, and it's been quite a ride," he said. "This was mine and my wife's decision, and I wanted to tell everyone all at once at the meeting. [Deputy] Carl [Cosper] tried very hard to get it out of me, but I wanted to let all the staff know first, and the public can deal with it from there.
"It has been an honor to work for Barry County, and I will continue to support law enforcement because I know what they are all going through."
Epperly said his daughter, who was at the meeting via teleconference on a cell phone, and his son, who is in Las Vegas, learned of his decision Monday night. He said he has his whole family's support, which has helped him in the choice.
After finishing his term, Epperly said he does not plan to fully retire.
"I'll probably pick up some jobs here and there, maybe mow lawns," he said. "I'll also do some fishing and some hunting, enough to stay active."
Election filings for the sheriff position open on Feb. 23 and close on March 29.