Faith has been center of undersheriff’s career.

May 14, 2018

Faith has been center of undersheriff’s career.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — A Bible sits on the corner of Undersheriff Jody Hartley’s desk at the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. It is not for decoration, but for reference. It serves as a reminder to him of his faith in Jesus Christ and that there are many people who pray for him and his colleagues daily. That faith has been the center of Hartley’s career and a rock that has given him strength during a career that has expanded 32 years; 31 of those years have been spent at the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. On May 31, Hartley will retire from that career and move into a new chapter of his life.

Hartley grew up in Hamlin Township and attended Ludington Area Schools until the middle of his sophomore year in high school when his family moved to the Scottville area. He

graduated from Mason County Central High School in 1976.

He wanted to go into the forestry industry, but Terry Luxford, who led the West Shore Community College law enforcement program, convinced him to look into law enforcement. He did a short internship with the Scottville Police Department and was hooked. He also worked briefly at Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

When he was 20-years-old, Mason County Sheriff Walt Carrier hired Hartley to work corrections. Hartley also served on the sheriff’s reserves unit. “I couldn’t even buy my bullets at that time because of my age,” Hartley says. 

Hartley was sent to the police academy at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and graduated in April 1979 and started working road patrol. After four years, Sheriff Carrier approached Hartley and told him he was being assigned to the detective bureau.

“I told the sheriff that I didn’t want to be a detective. I was having too much fun working the road patrol. The sheriff explained to me that he wasn’t asking me. He was telling me.”

Hartley became partners with Larry Stewart, who would later be elected sheriff. After a year as a detective, Hartley left law enforcement and, along with his wife, Linda, entered the missionary field in Honduras. “We sold our house and spend the next eight years working full time in the vocational missionary field.”

In 1993, the Hartleys returned to Mason County and Sheriff Stewart gave Hartley a job as a road deputy again. Two years later he was moved back to the detective bureau where he served there for the next 13 years, spending three of those years as an undercover narcotics detective on the State, Sheriff’s, Chief’s Enforcement of Narcotics Team (SSCENT), a regional cooperative that consists of officers from Mason, Manistee, and Oceana counties.

Kim Cole, left, along with Sgt. Jody Hartley, after Cole was elected sheriff in 2012.

When he was promoted to sergeant in 2006, he went back on the road until he became Kim Cole’s undersheriff in 2013.

“The most rewarding has been the last 5 1/2 years as undersheriff,” Hartley says. “It’s been an honor being able to promote and develop leadership at the sheriff’s office. We now have a structure of leadership here that is strong. When someone leaves, we are able to fill the void without experiencing any gaps. This is true for all areas of the office, including leadership, road patrol and corrections.”

Hartley says he does not necessarily measure his career by particular memorable cases. “I really enjoyed working undercover narcotics. I really enjoyed getting the bad guys. There’s something about going through that door and making an arrest. I’m going to miss that.”

Hartley served as a sniper on the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) as well.

Following his retirement, Hartley says he plans to take life a little easy and get some work done around his house.

“My wife exemplifies the perfect cop’s wife,” Hartley says. “She has been totally supportive of my career through the good times and bad times. I owe her some time now. She is really the main reason I am retiring now while I am still young enough to spend some quality time with her. She deserves that.

“I’m also going to hit the reset button and ride my bicycle. We have a new German shepherd puppy that I will be training and I’m going to be spending more time with God.”

Some of that time with God will be helping others through his church, Radiant Church of Ludington. “I have a real burden for those who are struggling with substance abuse in our community. In law enforcement we see the drug issue from the front lines and we see it ever increasing.”

God has certainly been the center of Hartley’s life. He says he has been thankful for those who have committed to praying for him and other local law enforcement. He says that he has also been blessed to work with partners who are strong in their faith, such as Det. Sgt. Tom Posma and Sheriff Kim Cole.

“Sheriff Cole and I have made a great team and I credit much of that to our faith. He and I play off each other’s weaknesses and strengths. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or boss.”

Hartley is expected to be honored with a formal resolution by the Mason County Board of Commissioners when it meets Tuesday. He will be succeeded by Derrek Wilson, who is currently the chief deputy of the road patrol. Wilson will be replaced by Sgt. Oscar Davila.

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