(Posted Aug. 3, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
“My entire teenage life, I wanted nothing more than to be a deputy sheriff in Madison County,” said Bob Henry, who made that dream a reality, then made that reality his life-long career.
On Aug. 3, Henry, 54, retired from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, where he spent his entire 33-year career in law enforcement. He started in the patrol division and worked his way up to chief deputy, serving as second in command to Sheriff Jim
Henry got his foot in the door by being a bit of a pest.
“I bugged and nagged Steve Saltsman (sheriff at the time) for a commission as a deputy,” he said.
Henry got that commission in December 1984. He was 20 years old. His assignment was Lake Choctaw.
He spent the first several years of his career in the patrol division.
“I really, really enjoyed road patrol,” he said. “There never was even two days that were similar. You’d go to work never knowing what the first thing would be or the last.”
In those early years, Henry developed a knack for catching residential burglars in the act.
“He’s done that more times than anyone here,” said Sabin, who rode third-shift patrol as a deputy with Henry when he first started. “It’s about being in the right place at the right time, being observant, and knowing who should be where when. It’s experience like that we’re going to miss.”
Over the span of his career, Henry was part of many firsts at the Sheriff’s Office, including the agency’s first mounted patrol, established in 1994. He, Sabin, and former deputy Jim Snell were the first to ride patrol horses certified by the state. Henry also was the first K-9 officer at the Sheriff’s Office, taking to the road with a trained canine at his side.
Henry’s journey through the ranks included a promotion to sergeant with the patrol division in 1996. He became a lieutenant in 2002, overseeing the patrol and communication divisions. Sabin named him chief deputy in 2008, thereby charging him with oversight of all of the operations of the Sheriff’s Office.
“For both of us to come up through the ranks here at the Sheriff’s Office and work together, we knew and understood what each other was going to do and what each other was thinking,” Sabin said. “I never questioned any decision he made concerning the office.”
Henry and Sabin not only enjoyed a strong working relationship, they also are close friends. They own horses together, vacation together, and live next door to each other.
“I built my house first and my grass is greener than his,” Henry quipped.
Whether on duty or not, the two constantly talked shop but neither considered what they’ve done for a living to be work.
“I lived and breathed this place,” Henry said of the Sheriff’s Office. “I never felt like I was ‘at work’ the 33 years that I wore the black shirt. It’s just what I did. I know Jim feels the same way.”
About his friend and colleague, Sabin said, “There’s a lot to be said for spending your entire career at one agency like Bob did. The knowledge of the county over that many years and his experience will be missed.”
While he will miss his job and his co-workers, Henry said he is looking forward to spending time with his four granddaughters, including the newest one, born on July 28.
Henry and his wife, Kathy, have two children, Scott, who is a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, and Amanda.
Not ready to let go completely, Henry plans to keep his foot in the door at the Sheriff’s Office, donating his time as a special deputy.
For now, Sabin said he has no plans to fill the chief deputy position. Instead, he is dividing the duties among other supervisors.