I Love Dayton: Shelby County Sheriff set to leave behind lasting legacy

I Love Dayton

SIDNEY, Ohio (WDTN) – Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart will not seek another term after his current term ends on December 31, 2020.

Lenhart started his law enforcement career in 1966 as a deputy in Shelby County. He eventually became sheriff and served the county from 1976-1991.

Lenhart is now 74 and is serving his eighth term in his second round as Sheriff.

The opportunity to return came after a scandal involving the former Sheriff. Lenhart’s wife thought it was a sign for John to return to his former post.

Sheriff Lenhart said, “The finances (of the Sheriff’s Office) were in a mess. She said, I think God is talking to you. I said…I think it’s the devil.”

Lenhart is also known for changing political parties. He says there are “crazy people” on the far left and the far right.

“I’m a blue dog democrat. I’m a moderate republican. I’m a maverick,” laughed Lenhart.

To some, it doesn’t matter which aisle Sheriff Lenhart sits in. His employees say his open door policy and dedication to law enforcement speaks for itself.

Lenhart won Sheriff of the Year in 2015. He told 2 NEWS reporter Ethan Fitzgerald the award means a lot to him. Lenhart says the award really goes to the entire department and shows how his team made progress in becoming more financially stable.

During his time in law enforcement, Lenhart has met several presidents. The one who made the biggest impression on him? President Ronald Reagan.

“I felt that I was in the presence of someone with real leadership,” said Lenhart.

He also met Bush Sr. and Jr. Lenhart recalls a time when he was sitting next to Sr.

“There was a whole cast of TV crews out there. The President is sitting on my right. That was the first time in my life…normally I don’t get nervous in front of people,” said Lenhart.

One of his most recent accomplishments was the Star House, located right next to the Shelby County Jail.

The facility helps former convicts adjust to their newly found freedom. The sheriff felt that too many of his inmates were falling in with the wrong crowds because they went back to where they were living previously.

It cost roughly 1 million dollars to build. Not a single penny came from a tax levy. Instead donations and state funding helped the project become a reality.

Like the inmates looking to transition, Sheriff Lenhart is about to do the same.

“I don’t have any definite plans. This might sound a little screwy…but in my whole life I have followed destiny. Whatever that is.” said Lenhart.

The Sheriff doesn’t have immediate plants to retire.

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