Citizen of the Year

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chuck Eddy's career goal has been simply to keep the people in Storm Lake and Buena Vista County safe. He's been doing just that for 33 years in the law enforcement career he never originally expected to have.

Eddy's retirement as Buena Vista County Sheriff is now official. Giving up the sheriff title, he is presented a new title - Pilot Tribune's Citizen of the Year.

Being involved in law enforcement was never a dream of Eddy's but he has enjoyed nearly every minute of his career. He attended AIB College of Business from 1965-67, intending to grab a job working in a then just-emerging field of computers, or as an accountant.

He joined the Air Force in 1967, after completing college, and hoped to carry over his education in business. A minor flaw - he is color blind - derailed the kind of military post he had hoped for, but there was a need for security personnel, he was told. There was no arguing; he took what was dealt out to him. He went through three years of military law enforcement training and service before heading to Vietnam.

He came home from the service in 1971 to find a new direction in the civilian world. He had met his wife Sharon, a native of Nemaha, at college. They moved to Storm Lake where he landed a job at Hy-Grade (the site of Tyson today). When he was laid off from his job, he decided to try applying for a police officer vacancy with the City of Storm Lake. He went through a six-week training session at the academy, much less than what a police officers today must complete, and hit the beat.

At the time, there were eight police officers for the city. Eddy found that he savored the "public relations" portion of the job, including talking with people of the community and the businesspeople that he encountered while in uniform.

He laughs thinking back on how different the arrests were in the early years.

The officers knew everyone they arrested - and most busts were for public intoxication cases where people needed to sleep it off.

"Today, the population has grown and it is so diverse we don't know everyone. It is more of a challenge. Arrests are more serious and the crime has increased," he said.

Eddy was approached to run for sheriff in 1988 after serving for 13 years as a policeman. He won that election and four consecutive terms to follow.

"I feel honored to have been elected five times and it has been an honor to be the county sheriff," he said. "It's nice that the people have let me be their sheriff and represent them."

He credits his staff and their dedication in their careers for his success.

"They're the backbone of the sheriff's office. I feel fortunate to be here and have them work for me. Everyone here has great ethics and works hard. They're dedicated to their job and their profession. That has made us one of the most respected sheriff offices in the state."

Sheriff Eddy has always felt it was important to promote the sheriff's department by providing programs at schools. "It's good to keep a good rapport with the schools. It shows we're human and not bad guys," he said.

Eddy has gone above and beyond many times in his career, never more so than when wearing the bulky, 10-foot tall inflated sheriff character costume at several events.

Eddy was involved in the Chiefs and Police Association when he was on the police force and has served on the Iowa State Sheriff and Deputy Association for several years, taking the role of president in 2003. The involvement gave him a great deal of information that was useful in his own position, including a jails committee which provided insight used to help plan the new Buena Vista County Jail, and the legislative committee which helped stopped a few bills that would have hurt sheriff departments and helped pass bills that have aided the departments.

He, among others, working for a number of years to get the new jail and sheriff's office project planned, passed and built.

Eddy has been involved in other areas throughout the community.

He and other other members of the community started an Optimist Club, whose goal is to benefit young people, some 30 years ago. The group disband and evolved into the Partners with Youth group. For a number of years the group made dollar donations to many youth organizations, raising funds from the ring toss and snow cone machines that were set up in the park during the Star Spangled Spectacular.

The Partners With Youth group has also fallen to the wayside but Eddy and three other members continue to meet religiously for Friday morning breakfast at the Pantry, where all the Optimist and Partners meetings were held over the years.

Eddy has many great memories of the community and county, and says they will always stay with him. He and wife Sharon raised two daughters here - Robin and Lori. Robin still resides in Storm Lake with her children Logan, 15, and Jordyn, 12. Lori and her husband live at Monroe with their three children - Kacie, 12; Kala, 9; and Kolby, 7.

The 33 years of his career seem to have flown by. "It seems like yesterday..." he said. But he isn't about to sit at home.

He was recently asked to fill a part-time position for the Governor's Safety Bureau which would allow him to continue the public relations portion of the law enforcement job he has always enjoyed. If he accepts the job, he would meet with all 99 county sheriff's departments and discuss safety issues, again helping to keep the public safer.

He has a woodworking shop at his home north of Newell that is calling him, he says, and he has discovered a love for farming, helping out neighbors with their field work. Wife Sharon has a list of maintenance projects he can complete at the Baymont Inn (formerly Amerihost) which she manages. He just may work harder now that he is retired...

Despite being color blind, Eddy's career has been quite colorful. In retrospect, he is glad that it didn't lead him down another career path. Law enforcement has been good to him, and he and his family have enjoyed all the opportunities and the people encountered along the way.

"Storm Lake is a good town," he says, "and it has treated me well."

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