CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The longest running sheriff in county history turned in his badge Friday.
Sheriff Dan Walsh took the reins when Dave Madigan stepped down in 2001. He says he’s grateful for the past 16-years for the opportunity he ahd to help his community.
Walsh saw his fair share of action when he started with Urbana Police; everything from car accidents to herding a horse.
“I left after almost eight years and I always loved law enforcement and when Dave Madigan said he wasn’t going to run again, I thought, ‘What a great way to get back into law enforcement.'”
In 2002, voters decided. Walsh took the seat and took on some surprising time commitments compared to what he was used to.
“I had no idea how many parades and festivals there are and you try to get to most of them.”
Other time commitments were agonizing and emotion. This one, Holly Cassano’s case, was nearly nine years of sleepless nights, tears and hope, until a breakthrough only three months before Walsh was to step down.
“I wanted this case solved before I left.”
Walsh also achieved a goal he had since his first days in office.
“We’ve got more of a jail overcrowding now than Sheriff Madigan had during most of his term, so we’ll have to deal with that issue.”
In 2003, more than 10,000 arrestees were booked into the Champaign County Jail. Last year, the total was about half that.
“Since he became sheriff, obviously our jail population went down. We’ve made a lot of great improvements since Walsh became sheriff.”
But, Walsh says a lot of credit goes to his staff, including Teresa Schleinz, who he says, can do it all.
“We couldn’t do it without here. She’s fantastic. She helped teach me the ropes. Sometimes, when I forget the ropes, she gets me back on track.”
But, to that, she says, right back at ‘cha.
“He’s been our attorney, he’s been our CPA, he’s been our sheriff. We can talk about my son, my husband. I get made at my sister-in-law. I can talk about that with him, so not only a boss, but a true friend.”
Walsh wants people to know, if you ever need him, he won’t be going far. He’ll be working part-time at a law office, just a block down the street.
As he hangs up his vest, he’s filled with gratitude.
“Despite what’s going on in the country, I think most of the citizens in Champaign County, like the sheriff’s office, like the police departments, like the first responders. We appreciate that and we thank them for it.”
Walsh will practice law at the Frederick and Hagle Law Firm. He’ll be focusing on workers’ compensation, real estate and a few other areas. But, he says he’ll also be available for advice if the incoming sheriff, Dustine Heuerman, ever needs it. Heuerman will be sworn in as sheriff Saturday.
Walsh isn’t the only sheriff in Central Illinois retiring. In Cumberland County, Sheriff Steven Ozier is retiring after 20-years. Cass County’s Sheriff Bob Fair is stepping down after 8-years and Sheriff Jered Shofner, of DeWitt County, is also retiring after 8-years.