Athens County Sheriff Office Holds Honors Ceremony

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After nearly 50 years of combined experience with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, the three newest retirees made quick work of their speeches to family and friends at a celebratory banquet.

“I’m retired,” former Deputy Jim Thompson told the crowd, resulting in plenty of laughs.

“All I’ve got to say is I did it,” former Lt. Rodney Smith said with a grin.

“That it?” Sheriff Patrick Kelly asked.

“That’s it.”

And the third retiree, Esko, sat quietly and wagged his tail, having spent five years as the county’s canine unit.

The ceremony, held Tuesday at Kiser’s Barbeque in The Eclipse in The Plains, was a bittersweet one for the sheriff’s office. Alongside honoring those retiring, three others were officially promoted to lieutenant positions.

Lts. John Morris, Jason Kline and Jack Taylor were presented their official pins, marking a new set of leadership for the county sheriff’s office.

“It’s difficult to see good friends and coworkers leave … but with the promotions, that eases the pains of leadership,” Kelly said. “You can’t replace 30 years of experience.”

Thompson’s retirement comes after 17 years with the office and 23 years before that with the Logan Police Department.

“Looking back at all these years, seems like I just started yesterday,” he said. “This is like my family … these guys are proud every day to put the uniform on and serve their communities.”

Former Lt. Rodney Smith echoed that sentiment, saying that he will miss the friendships he’s had with others in law enforcement.

Smith reflected on his 26 years serving Athens County as a correction’s officer, sergeant and lieutenant.

“When I first started out we didn’t even have portable radios,” he laughed. “Technology has improved.”

Smith, an avid motorcycle rider, said he hopes to continue working as a reserve deputy but won’t miss his midnight shift work at the office.

Tuesday’s celebration featured mixed emotions for Morris. Having owned and worked alongside Esko for five years, his promotion to lieutenant meant that the experienced canine could no longer work with the sheriff’s office.

“It’s more than a working relationship,” Morris said of his career with Esko. “He’s always done a great job.”

Among Esko’s greatest days on the force came in July 2012, when the canine tracked down an attempted bank robber in Amesville. Morris estimated that Esko has helped track and bring in $400,000 in seized money, vehicles and other items for the sheriff’s office.

“The money seized has bought a lot of things for the sheriff’s office,” Morris said. “I’d say he paid for himself within two months.”

While Thompson and Smith were awarded ceremonial rocking chairs at the banquet, Esko was presented a medal for his canine service.

Newly-promoted Lt. Jason Kline said his 17 years experience will give him a chance to be a leader within the sheriff’s office. He has previously worked as a reserve deputy, patrol deputy and detective.

“I’m very excited. I’m ready for the challenge,” he said.

Newly promoted Lt. Det. Jack Taylor expressed his appreciation for the support he has received from his family, Capt. Bryan Cooper and the rest of the law enforcement personnel in attendance as well.

With three new lieutenants and several other deputies hired earlier this summer, Kelly said there will be no change in the office’s focus.

“Overall in the office we’ve hired new people, promoted new people … our vision and mission remains the same,” he said.