When the Audrain County election filing deadline hit in late March, many Audrain County voters may have been surprised to know a name wasn’t filed for the first time in more than 30 years.
Audrain County Sheriff Stuart Miller had previously decided he would retire at the end of 2016 after 41 total years of protecting and serving the county’s residents.
“The people of the county have been really good to me over the years,” said Sheriff Miller, who was elected in 1985. “I can’t express my thanks enough for the people who voted for me.”
Sheriff Miller also said he will miss the time spent with his employees and other colleagues in law enforcement.
“I’m going to miss being around other law enforcement personnel, my employees, and my friends in law enforcement,” he noted.
County law enforcement and the entire world has changed so much since Sheriff Miller began his career as a reserve deputy in 1975.
He lived with his parents when he graduated from college (Truman) in 1976. with a double major in business administration and criminal justice.
He remembers the days of his father Daniel (D.R.) serving as a reserve deputy back in 1973.
Back then, officers used their own personal vehicles.
“He had a light, a siren, and a radio,” Sheriff Miller said. “It was all volunteer…I’d go with them because I was interested in law enforcement even before being a reserve deputy…If I wasn’t riding with a deputy, I was sitting at the jail learning to do dispatch…When dad and I weren’t taking care of livestock, my off time was being in the Sheriff’s Office and learning the ropes…”
Sheriff Miller started as a full-time deputy in 1981.
“When I went in as Sheriff, I knew pretty much how things operated,” he added.
Sheriff Miller said running the office when he first started was so much different than it is today.
He had 13 employees when he started including just five deputies patrolling the roadways along with some reserve deputies. There were also five dispatchers, jailers, and a bailiff.
In today’s Audrain County Sheriff’s Office, there are more than 42 employees when counting the task force.
There are eight deputies, one commander, three detectives, a chief deputy, five bailiffs, 18 jailers, a captain, three task force officers, two administrative assistants, and the list goes on.
There were 10,300 calls answered last year, an average of 25 calls per day. When Sheriff Miller started, he said everything the deputies needed was pencil, a paper, and a typewriter.
“Now it’s all computers and paperless for the most part,” he said.
Much of the work done today is put into a records management system that 30-40 counties are a part of.
While some paper trails are still required for courts, some day the whole process might be all electronic. Fingerprinting was once done with an old ink and roller. Now deputies use LiveScan, an electronic fingerprinting system.
Another major change during his tenure was the construction of the new jail in October 1999. The original jail was built in 1926. The new jail featured communication and audio systems throughout the jail, a computerized locking system, video/audio recording, and more.
Sheriff Miller said the bonds for the jail will be paid off in early 2017.
The next sheriff may need to spearhead a process of extending the jail to add more beds, pave the parking lot out to the jail, add five holding cells and one padded cell.
“We’ve outgrown it,” Sheriff Miller added. “When having problems with a prisoner and we need too take them out of the general population, we need to have space…”
The previous budget for the Sheriff’s Office was $300,000 and today it is a little more than $3 million.
While still in office, Sheriff Miller is working with Sheriff candidate Matt Oller, who works just two doors over from him. Sheriff Miller is working with Oller on grant writing as Oller takes over as new Project Director on July 1.
While still in office, Sheriff Miller still has a focus on some things still on the to-do list. Mobile communications are being improved as there is a focus to get radios that can be a part of the Missouri Statewide Wireless Interoperable Network (MOSWIN)
At some point, deputies may be able to use their portable radios, hit a tower, and talk to deputies in the boot heel with a crystal clear signal.
The cost is $8,700 with the exchange repeater. Grant dollars can help with the purchases.
“So we hope to be completely on MOSWIN by 2017,” Sheriff Miller added.
Sheriff Miller also noted a change in the way time is served by non-violent offenders or first time offenders, which is down to 15-20 days a year.
Also, many offenders are deciding to serve time in the Department of Corrections and not the county jails as their service time ends up getting cut and they are quickly back out on the streets.
“That’s something we definitely don’t like,” Sheriff Miller noted. “…I think this is what’s led to the overcrowding of the prison system.”
So what’s next for the retiring sheriff?
“I’m planning on doing whatever the heck I want to do,” he said.
Some of his time will be spent visiting his son Stu and daughter-in-law Madison, as his son is a captain in the Air Force and stationed in Omaha, Neb.
Sheriff Miller’s wife Pam still works for the school district.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Miller expects to work some hours with the Sheriff’s Office to lend his assistance during his retirement.
Some of the many accomplishments Sheriff Miller points to during his tenure heading up the Sheriff’s Office includes:
• Establishing the Office’s first detective division; Clearing 30% more crime than the national average
• Over 2,300 drug and alcohol arrests
• Establishment of Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy
• Organization of first Drug Enforcement Administration in the county
• Establishing a School Resource Officer
• Conceal carry training program
• Establishing the website www.audrainsheriff.com, and more