Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chuck Eddy and Andy Griffith

A laid-back model of law enforcement has served us well.

Not too many of us can really remember a time before Chuck Eddy was wearing a badge around here - first with the Storm Lake Police and for what, 20 years? - as the Buena Vista County Sheriff.

I really doubt if there's ever been a time in all his years in office that he's ever had to draw his gun in anger.

Chuck has something that even the law enforcement academies can't teach - he knows people. I think, if given the choice, he would rather have a conversation than a bust. He'd prefer to get someone home safely to bed when possible, instead of to the slammer.

Perhaps it is his time serving in Vietnam that steeled him, but there hasn't seemed to be anything occurring in BV County that could rattle him too much. He raised laid back to the level of art form, while still being as passionate and professional about the job as anyone you could wish for.

There's a lot of those same level-headed qualities in our next sheriff, Gary Launderville, and in the other veteran officers and staff who keep the department running with minimum drama. If they have taken on a little of Chuck's personality over the years, it will no doubt serve us well.

My career here has been about the same timespan as his; I have covered tragedies and disasters, fires and conflicts, and had plenty of chances to see our sheriff in action. He hasn't been the type to sit in the office and supervise from a comfortable chair when there has been real trouble - he's been there, day or night, more than a few times jumping straight out of bed in his undershirt to get to the scene.

His style of response was never that jackbooted sheriff stereotype. No matter who he was dealing with, he treated all with respect, and had that touch of being able to motivate without yelling, calm people by just talking to them in that slightly gravely, dad-kinda voice.

I don't suppose there are any Andy Griffith sort of sheriffs around anymore, because in an era of meth, guns and urban-level crime moving out from the big cities, Mayberry RFD is a thing of the past.

Chuck Eddy has been about as close as you can get, and I mean that in the best possible way. A genuine nice guy who cares about the people he works with and the people he serves. I've never heard him say an unkind word about anyone - and that includes the most onerous criminals stocked in his jail.

We needed that new jail to deal with new realities, and Chuck along with Deputy McClure worked patiently for a lot of years to gently help us see it as the investment in our own safety that it is.

I have never understood why it is necessary to elect a sheriff, in partisan fashion no less - any more than we would elect a police chief. Chuck was able to keep politics out of the office, and he wasn't the type to do any grandstanding to promote himself. The quieter things were, the better he liked it. And when something front-page worthy did happen, he was always quick to give any credit to his officers and those of the other departments they work with.

In fact, that level of cooperation may be the greatest achievement of modern law enforcement in our region.

Most people will hopefully have to see it in action very seldom, but isn't it a good felling to know it is there?

Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser, Fire Chief Mike Jones, Sheriff Eddy, the leaders of the State Patrol in our area, and all of the surrounding sheriffs, town police and fire and rescue people, BVU campus security, regional drug task forces, rescue helicopter, medical center staff - they all will respond and work together seamlessly in case of emergency.

There is no hesitation and no egos in this network, and I have been so impressed to see it in action. We could not be better protected than we are by all of the men and women who interact so well for us, who sacrifice and will willingly risk their own safety any night if need be, to protect their community. Such teamwork does not happen everywhere. Chuck Eddy's legacy in part rests in this network of cooperation as well.

Throughout it all, Chuck has managed to be accessible, and no matter how stressful the situation, kept people around him laughing. I don't think Sheriff Andy Taylor could have done that any better.

He's never taken all the vacation he's been due, and finally he and wife Sharon will have the time to travel, to see their extended family grow up, and all the other good things that have been waiting for them.

It will take a long time for us to get used to the idea of a sheriff's department without Chuck Eddy. There will be a retirement coffee December 12, 1-4:30 p.m., and if only a small fraction of the people he directly responded to help over 20 years show up to shake his hand as they should, the sheriff's office will be packed.

Give Sheriff-Elect Launderville your support too; he comes to office at a very challenging time, with new drugs coming at us out of Chicago, immigation and identity theft emerging as issues, and all of the other social and economic concerns that are coming to a head. He will do well.

Thank you for everything, Chuck. Even Andy Griffith had to go off the air sometime. But like him, you are not about to be fogotten, and I think you will always be Sheriff Eddy to me.