OREGON COUNTY -- Reporters note: This is the ninth in a series of articles focusing on the elected offices in Oregon County.
Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward has a lot of experience working in law enforcement.
He began as a reserve officer, worked one-year as a Thayer Police Officer, and served as chief deputy for Sheriff Junior Henry from 1989 to 1993.
Ward was elected sheriff in 1993.
The sheriff's office recently moved to the third floor of courthouse, giving them more space to operate and also making them closer to the jail.
Eric King is Ward's chief deputy and has been since 2001. Other deputies include Darrin Sorrell, Gene Barton and Eddie Johnson. Lee Simmons is the bailiff and jailer, and Bethal J. Stakle is the office administrator.
Ward is a certified officer carrying a Class A license with the Missouri Department of Public Safety. All of his deputies are also certified officers. There are 10 reserve deputies who work with the Oregon County Sheriff's Department.
"My job is to protect and serve the residents of Oregon County," the sheriff said.
Ward said his department answers a lot of emergency calls and assists with medical calls.
He said most of the criminal calls in the county deal with domestic violence.
"When I first became sheriff back in the early 90s, marijuana and cocaine use was a huge problem in the county. We are seeing a change in the drug situation. Now, there seems to be more of a problem with prescription drugs," Ward said. He said people may go to several different doctors to obtain prescription medication, such as narcotics and then sell them on the street.
"Because law enforcement in this area has worked so hard on eradicating meth and marijuana, it is not hardly grown or made here anymore. It comes across the border from Mexico. It is a constant battle," Ward said.
The sheriff is a member of the South Central Drug Task Force and is a firefighter, sitting on the Thayer Fire Department Board of Directors. He said all of his officers belong to fire departments in their respective communities.
Ward said burglary and stealing were also problems when he took office. "We might have answered three for four burglary or stealing calls a week back then. Now we probably do not have seven to 10 burglary or stealing calls a year," Ward said.
He said his officers assist the highway patrol by responding to accidents and assist the Oregon County Ambulance Service as well. He said his department also works closely with the Humane Society when they are asked to assist.
Ward and Deputy King are both members of the Region G Hazardous Materials Team.
By law, the sheriff is required to receive 20 hours of state training each year. Ward said he and his officers receive much more training than that. "Sometimes it feels like if we are not working we are going to school," he said.
Ward said the Eleven Point River does not see the problems the Spring River just south of Oregon County has.
"The Eleven Point is not a problem. We have an agreement with the Forest Service to provide river patrol in the summer months. We have assisted them if someone gets stranded or injured while on the river and we have also had to assist in some swift water rescues on the river," the sheriff said.
He said quite a few college kids enjoy the river during the summer and very few arrests are made on the Eleven Point.
Ward said his job is one of the few elected jobs in the county that is 24-7. He said at times it is challenging, but he has always enjoyed serving and protecting the people of Oregon County.