SHERIFF'S CORNER: Honoring those who have served

In this chapter of the Sheriff's Corner, I felt it would be important to honor those sheriffs who have served Lake County from its inception.

The office of sheriff

Per the Michigan Constitution, a sheriff shall be elected in each county with a term to consist of four years. The sheriff is first and foremost a peace officer under Michigan law, as well as being a certified police officer under the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES). The sheriff is the only elected official that serves as a law enforcement officer.

The Sheriff is responsible to respond to law and order needs of the citizens within incorporated government jurisdictions (cities and villages) and any other regions (townships) located with in the county. Other duties mandated by the Michigan Constitution require the sheriff to maintain an operate a county jail, provide court civil services, court security, marine safety patrol, the recovery of drowned bodies and maintaining local criminal records. Other services include traffic enforcement, the issuance of gun purchase permits, record-keeping of sex offenders, vehicle inspections, the investigation of criminal complaints and the transportation of inmates.

The sheriff may deputize officers for several duties, including road patrol, corrections, reserves, special deputies and process servers. Each sheriff has to also appoint an undersheriff, who serves as second-in-command of the department, and is able to assume the sheriff's role if the sheriff is unavailable. The undersheriff is usually tasked with the overall administration of the department. The sheriff will also appoint a chief deputy to administer a certain division, as in road patrol and jail administration.

Of the 50 U.S. states, 48 have sheriffs. The two exceptions are Alaska, which does not have counties, and Connecticut, which has no county governments. The federal district and the five populated territories also do not have county governments.

Sheriffs are elected to 4-year terms in 42 states, 2-year terms in Arkansas and New Hampshire, 3-year terms in New Jersey and 6-year terms in Massachusetts. Sheriffs are appointed instead of elected in Hawaii, Rhode Island and a small number of counties elsewhere.

Sheriff's office vs. sheriff's department

The term "Sheriff's Department" is a loose term that generally refers to an appointed sheriff, which is different to that of an elected official. The office of sheriff is not simply another "department" of county government — the internal operation of an office of sheriff is the sole responsibility of the elected sheriff. County department heads are subordinate to a county governing body, because a "department" is truly only a division of county government. The office of sheriff is a statutory/constitutional office, having exclusive powers and authority under state law and state constitution.

Interesting facts

• Michigan was organized as a Territory, June 30, 1805.

• Michigan officially became a State, January 26, 1837.

• Lake County was created by the Michigan Legislature in 1840 as Aishcum County. The name was changed to Lake County in 1843.

• Sheriff Brenda Skyles was the first woman in Michigan to be appointed as sheriff without having any marital ties to the previous sheriff.

• Lake County is one of the only counties in Michigan that has no other local law enforcement agency located within the county limits. This means the Lake County Sheriff's Office is the primary law enforcement agency located within the county. There are no local city, township or village police departments. However, we are assisted by the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (conservation officers) and the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Division.

• The Lake County Sheriff's Office is one of the only sheriff's offices that has a dedicated recreation division to provide enforcement of ORVs and snowmobiles on public roads and state trails.

History of sheriffs

Here is a list of sheriffs who have served Lake County from obtainable records:

1871-72: George W. Collier

1873-74: I. W. Howe

1877-1880: Isaac Grant

1881-82: George Oviatt

1883-86: Isaac Grant

1887-1890: Amos Rosenberg

1891-94: Henry A. Cutler

1895-98: David Colton

1899-1900: Mark V. Harding

1901-04: Willis L. Messenger

1905-08: John Emery Smith

1909-1912: George W. Bates

1913-16: William Burnett

1917-1920: Guy Wolgamott

1921-24: William Burnett

1925-1930: George W. Bates

1931-36: Arnold C. Miseli

1937-1940: Henry J. Smith

1941-46: Jesse N. Bradford

1947-49: Edward A. Engel

1949: Adolph Ploehn

1949-1952: Bernard E. Bromley

1953-1964: Jesse G. MacDougall

1965-68: Walter Z. Butler

1969: Robert Charles Radden

1969-1972: Guy Austin Lee

1973-76: Robert Lynn Johnson

1976-79: Lonnie Gayle Deur

1979: Robert R. Moore

1979-1984: Robert Glenn Blevins

1985-1990: Peter James Loucks

1990: Gary Krause

1990-92: Brenda Gerrard Skyles

1993-2015: Robert Allen Hilts

2015-16: Dennis Robinson

2017-Pres: Richard L. Martin

Recent projects

Starting this month, I am providing the townships and villages with a majority report of calls for service taken by the Lake County Sheriff's Office. This will show in detail the quantity and type of complaints that we respond to on a regular basis. Continuing with my mission of being transparent, this underlines our activity and reinforces the value of services we provide. As you may not see us all the time, we are serving you 24/7.

This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law.

If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to

As always, it is a honor serving and working for all of you who live, visit and work in Lake County. Working together, we can make a difference.