Henry County's chief deputy will hang up the badge following a 37-year career
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Dan Wesely’s route to the tractor was interrupted — for nearly 40 years.
Wesely, who grew up in the White Oak area north of Rome, always figured he would follow in his father’s footsteps and never stray far from the farm.
His figuring was wrong.
“I wanted to farm and figured that is what I would do,” the Henry County Sheriff’s office chief deputy said on a sunny March morning. “I thought that is where my career would lead me.”
Had it not been a desire for a few more coins in the pocket, it may have.
Following his graduation from Fairfield High School, Wesely was working on the farm but also was searching for another job. He had a relative working in law enforcement and that was the impetus that led to a 37-year career which ends with retirement Friday.
“I just needed a job. I was helping my dad on the farm, but I was looking for another job that I could do at night,” he recalled.
So he began working as a dispatcher in the sheriff’s office, supervising the county jail at night.
“I wasn’t really looking for a career in it (law enforcement), but the more I got into it, the more interested I became,” he explained.
The chief deputy began his career as an officer for the Mt. Pleasant Police Department in January 1976. Then County Sheriff Dick Droz asked him to join the sheriff’s department six months later.
He was with the sheriff’s department for a few years before returning to the police department. “It was just easier to work for the police department because I had a set schedule. I was raising two children at the time and a weekend shift with the sheriff’s office could become a 24-hour shift,” Wesely said.
Two years later he was back at the sheriff’s office at the beckoning of then Sheriff Terry Morrow. He and former County Sheriff Allen Wittmer joined the department together in February 1981.
Wesely was appointed chief deputy on May 17, 1984, and has served in that capacity since with the exception of a six-week period (Nov. 10-Dec. 31, 2012) when he was appointed interim sheriff as Wittmer resigned his office.
Looking back on his career, Wesely smiles and said he has seen a lot of changes — most of them for the good.
“There are so many state regulations now. In this office, the state regulates about everything we do,” he remarked. “Now, inmates are monitored 24 hours a day and booking procedures have changed. When I first started if an inmate complained of pain, we just told him, ‘that’s too bad.’ Now, we have to make sure the needs of inmates are met.”
Technology has placed computers and printers in the department’s vehicles. Rifles now are as much standard equipment for the vehicle as power steering.
“Equipment and technology have changed so much,” he commented. “Nowadays you can’t operate if you don’t know how to operate a computer. In fact, you can do nearly everything on the computer in your car, you wouldn’t even have to come into the office. Cellphones also are used a lot in the field to communicate and rifles are now in cars. Everything is just so advanced. The younger deputies are very good on the computers and soon, we will be printing tickets on the printers in the vehicles.”
Asked about what case he remembers most, Wesely, after a long pause, said no particular case stands out. He said he remember a lot of homicides back in the 1980s. “Those were always interesting but were not a good thing,” he added.
He still would rather spend more time out of the office patrolling and investigating than sitting behind a desk. “I probably should do more desk work, but I like to be hands-on. If there is an emergency during the daytime, I will cover it. I enjoy it.”
The chief deputy said that over the years his approach to law enforcement also has shifted. He has become more analytical in his investigation. “I take a slower approach now, sit back and think more.”
During his career at the office, he has worked for four sheriffs (Ken Kraybill is the only one not formerly mentioned in this article) and said he has learned from all of them.
“It has been a very rewarding career,” Wesely said. “I have learned a lot. I have learned from every sheriff for whom I have worked and taken something from all of them. They were all good sheriffs.”
Wesely and his wife, Kay, live on a 160-acre farm (the ground is rented out) near Salem. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.
Although he left the farm, the farm never really departed from him and with a twinkle in his eye, he said he may be back on the tractor come fall.
“I don’t even know if I could drive some of the newer ones with all the computer equipment,” he chuckles. “I want to goof off this summer and piddle around, but I will be looking to do something in the fall.
“I have had some people offer me work, but I don’t want a full-time job. Eventually, I would like to get back into farming, but I don’t want to work hard,” he smiled.