'One of the greatest honors of my life' -- Stark County Sheriff reflects on service to community
Terry Oestreich spent nearly every waking moment over 26 years preparing to become sheriff. Now it will be only be a matter of weeks before he steps down from the position, concluding a four-year term. It has been bittersweet for the career law e...
Terry Oestreich spent nearly every waking moment over 26 years preparing to become sheriff.
Now it will be only be a matter of weeks before he steps down from the position, concluding a four-year term.
It has been bittersweet for the career law enforcement officer.
"Life is a grand adventure and I'm just waiting to see where it leads," he said. "To those who voted for me the first time and again this election, thank you. My prayers are that God will richly bless you and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the great people of Stark County. I mean, one of the greatest honors of my life."
Beginning his career in 1986 with the Stark County Sheriff's Department, Oestreich has been a mainstay of the county for more than 30 years. Stretching back to 1995, nearly every major case in Stark County was directly or indirectly influenced by his hand. It's hard to find anyone who would argue that Oestreich hasn't modernized the sheriff's office since assuming the position from former Sheriff Clarence Tuhy in 2014, a fact Oestreich is especially proud of.
"The professional standards that my administration brought to the department remains one of my most proud accomplishments," he said, extolling the professional development of each member of his staff. "I'm also proud of the modernization that we brought to the department in terms of remodeling and renovating the law enforcement center, courthouse and standard operating procedures. We took a building with serious infrastructure needs and health complaints and got that taken care of so that our employees could work in an environment that was safe and healthy."
Reflecting on his time as sheriff, Oestreich said he was most proud of his service with the men and women who comprised the department over the four years he headed it.
"Being able to work with the quality of people like Majors Wallace and Mosher, Detective Sergeants Wallace Jr. and Ehresmann, and the countless others over the years outshines everything else," Oestreich said. "I truly believe working with them is the highlight of my career."
Lauding his leadership, Oestreich was pleased with the vision he brought to the department and the accomplishments achieved under his administration.
"We now have the potential to really share information with a wide variety of agencies with the Zuercher records management system," he said. "That wasn't something that I was able to fully complete under my administration, but I will be passing the baton on to my successor further down the road."
The sheriff compared the department he assumed with the one he will leave for Sheriff-elect Corey Lee, saying it is a "night and day" difference.
"When I took office, we were on soft grant money, today, we have hard money for the county," Oestreich said. "The experience with the task force that we fostered, in addition to the oversight and leadership positions we created will hopefully provide a better direction for the department moving forward."
The years as the top brass in the county haven't come without a cost. Oestreich recounted an election night conversation he had with his wife and daughter, and the realization that for too long his family has had to contend with the responsibilities accompanying his service to the community.
"Time away from my family, I think, was the hardest part of the job," Oestreich said. "My wife brought it up and I hadn't realized it was as bad as it was. Being on the phone constantly in the evenings with people calling...I didn't realize it was that bad. I asked my daughter, I said 'April is it really that bad?' and she said, 'Yeah, dad. It was pretty bad.' You have to be there for the citizens but if there are any regrets I have on my time as sheriff it would be my time away from my family. But I don't dwell on the negative."
Oestreich said that after his final day in office Jan. 1, he plans to spend quality time with his family, travel the country and enjoy the quiet solitude of a great hunt. Looking back on a 33-year career in law enforcement, Oestreich said he was heavy-hearted about hanging up his hat, but hopeful for the possibilities that lie ahead.