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By Troy Treasure, NEMOnews Media Group
Between them, Sheriffs Wayne Winn and Robert Hardwick have nearly 70 years of law enforcement experience.
Both will retire following election of their successors Nov. 3.
Winn and Hardwick recently visited with a reporter to discuss the past, present and future.
Scotland County Sheriff Wayne Winn
In 1991, then-Memphis Police Chief Danny Aldridge telephoned Winn to gauge his interest in law enforcement. At the time, Winn was working construction.
“Jokingly, I said, ‘Hell no, I like being on the other side!’” Winn recalled.
Aldridge was undeterred by the response. He requested Winn ride along sometime.
“I hung up the phone and my wife asked who I was talking to,” Winn said.
After explaining Aldridge had been on the line, Winn specified the call’s purpose.
“My comment to her was, ‘What in the hell would they do in Memphis, Missouri? Drive around and look at the stars?’
“I decided to come in one night and ride with them,” Winn continued. “I was amazed at the number of calls they had.”
Later, Winn was laid off from his construction job. He took a closer look at becoming a cop. In Nov. 1992, Winn was hired by the Memphis Police Department.
“They swore me in and I said, ‘So, what do I do?’ They said, ‘Well, enforce the law.’
“I said OK. They gave me a gun and a badge and said go do it. I said, ‘Do what? I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Winn recalled with a laugh.
Winn got his feet wet riding with a training officer.
“Every time I would ask him a question, he’d say, ‘Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know,’” Winn stated. “I thought oh, man, I’m in trouble.”
Winn cited then-Missouri Highway Patrol Zone Sgt. Roger Gosney as an inspiration and mentor. In Feb. 1993, Winn attended the Patrol Academy in Jefferson City where he completed a three-week, 120 hour course.
Winn served as a city officer for eight years. By the end of the 1990s, then-Scotland County Sheriff Mark Drummond decided to not seek reelection. As Winn put it, Drummond talked him into running for the position.
Winn described himself being, at the time, apolitical. However, a street encounter turned out to be decisive.
“One person came up to me and said I hear you’re running for sheriff. I said I haven’t signed up,” Winn recalled. “They said if you’re going to run for sheriff in this county, you’ve got to be Democrat.
“I asked, ‘You mean you don’t vote for the person?’ They said, ‘No, we vote for the party.’”
According to Winn, he made an on-the-spot declaration.
“I said, ‘You’ve made up my mind. I’m going Republican,’” he said. “They turned off irritated and said, ‘Well, you’re not getting my vote.’ My response was I probably didn’t have it to start with.”
Winn stated that rendezvous was his first taste of politics.
He was elected Sheriff on Nov. 7, 2000.
Winn grew up on a farm in Scotland County. The late Albert and Druzella Winn’s house was full of people. There were six children, a cousin, an uncle, as well as a mentally-challenged aunt.
“We were poor, but didn’t know it,” Winn said. “We grew up working. We’d get off the bus, do our chores, then grab a rifle or fishing pole and bring back what we killed or caught, clean it, to provide for the family.
“We didn’t know that was what we were doing. It was fun to us,” he added.
One highlight was an annual summer vacation to Branson.
“I sit back and think, ‘How did mom and dad afford that?’ They saved for it,” Winn said.
He credited his parents for instilling character.
“In this job, you have to have values and respect. I think that’s more important than tradition,” Winn said. “You hear people say it’s tradition to pass down generation to generation of people coming into this job.
“My son had no desire to come into this job,” Winn continued. “I didn’t want him to. With the crap that’s going on nowadays, I’m glad he didn’t choose this career.
“He’s seen the nights I missed away from the family, the ball games I didn’t get to be at, the family dinners.”
Winn does not see himself as “over the hill.” He seeks a profession that better protects his family and is done fighting battles associated with the job.
“I’m 53 years old. I have no health benefits, plus I’m tired,” Winn said. “I’ve put 28 years into law enforcement and I’m the second-lowest paid sheriff in the state.”
He also cited the frustration of fighting to gain raises for dept. employees, reimbursement by the Department of Corrections for holding state inmates and dealing with probation and parole boards.
Winn was particularly critical of the Missouri Supreme Court.
“We have a bunch of Supreme Court (judges) that are, how should I say this politely,” Winn said before pausing five seconds, “a bunch of chicken (expletive deleted).
“They passed these guidelines where you can’t hold criminals without all these hearings,” Winn asserted. “They’re giving all the criminals the rights.”
Winn is grateful for the respect he and the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office have received from citizens the last 20 years.
“No. 1, I didn’t make promises. I’ll back that up by saying I only promised to do my best,” he said. “If I didn’t know something, I tried to find out the answer. I didn’t give false hope.”
During a reporter ride-along, Winn was asked what he was most proud of.
“We did a lot of marijuana eradication. We got rid of a lot of meth labs and cleaned that up. I’m kind of proud of that,” Winn said. “We made a lot of improvements to the office, new radio systems and higher pay for the help.
“If I can leave the office and the county better than what I found it, then I’ll go down with that legacy.”
Adair County Sheriff Robert Hardwick
Back in the day, bad guys didn’t mess with Sgt. Joe Friday.
Until moving to northeast Missouri in 1967 when Hardwick began attending fifth grade at Brashear, he was raised in the Los Angeles, Calif. suburb of Inglewood.
A long-running radio and television series based in L.A. inspired Hardwick’s childhood curiosity.
“I always wanted to be in law enforcement. It was watching Jack Webb in Dragnet,” he recalled of the actor who portrayed Sgt. Friday. “It was the old black-and-white shows, I’m telling you about my age here (65). It was in grade school.”
The Webb-produced series Adam-12 influenced Hardwick in high school, as did meeting a gentleman named David Young.
“He was a state trooper. I was 16,” Hardwick said. “He’s still a close friend of mine.”
Young, now 84, declined an in-person interview request but his wife, Sharon, stated the following on behalf of her husband in an email.
“Please know that he has been 100 percent behind Sheriff Hardwick and supportive of all he has done for Adair County and the Adair County Sheriff’s Office,” the email read. “David has always thought a lot of Bob and his family. They are people he is very proud to know and respect.”
As high school graduation approached in 1974, Hardwick felt military service would serve him well in achieving his professional goals.
According to the summer 2018 edition of “The Missouri Sheriff” magazine, he joined the Missouri National Guard’s 1175th Military Police Company. Hardwick underwent basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, then military police training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia.
“That kind of runs side by side because a lot of law enforcement agencies, not all of them, but a lot of highly-regarded agencies are what they call kind of military bearing, structure with policies, procedures, kind of like the military is.”
Hardwick indicated he was a member of a Missouri National Guard military police unit in Moberly for seven years. In 1979, he joined the Kirksville Police Department full time.
“I was drilling on weekends and working at the police department,” he recalled.
In 1984, Hardwick accepted a position with the Texas Department of Public Safety State Police. Upon graduation from the agency’s academy in Austin, state trooper assignments took him to Houston, Fort Stockton and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Hardwick returned to Missouri in 1992 as an investigator in the private sector. Later, he re-entered law enforcement returning to the KPD.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hardwick rejoined the Missouri National Guard. From 2006-2008, he served on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Hardwick said it was a life-long dream to be sheriff in the county he grew up in.
That goal became reality when, as an Independent candidate, Hardwick won election on Nov. 4, 2008. He was sworn-in Jan. 1 2009.
“Maybe it sounds kind of corny, but you’re able to make a difference working with your community, working with legislators,” Hardwick said.
Conversely, one of Hardwick’s priorities, a year-long process in 2013, was discontinued this year.
In July, Governor Parson signed legislation overturning local governments’ authority requiring prescriptions for the allergy medications pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, a decongestant used to manufacture methamphetamine.
The law went into effect Aug. 28.
“We didn’t have meth labs popping up all over the place because you couldn’t go to a brick-and-mortar store and buy pseudoephedrine, or have somebody buy it for it for you, and then you go somewhere and cook a batch of meth,” Hardwick said.
“That ordinance was passed by the City of Kirksville,” Hardwick continued. “I helped establish it to keep that from occurring here and now that’s all been undone.”
Hardwick, 65, and wife Coe Ann have been married 44 years. They have two children and five grandchildren ranging from eight to almost a year.
He hopes to spend portions of winter in Arizona.
Hardwick has strong views regarding recent developments in the United States.
“I try to not even watch the news because it’s slanted; it’s embellished,” he said.
“I have a front row seat to society’s problems and I do not have pay for it. I’m sitting in a movie theater every day. I don’t have to pay to go to the show, the show is right in front of me” Hardwick continued. “I don’t care to go to a movie theater because I don’t need to see a bunch of stuff being blown up, shot up, sadness. I see it every day and law enforcement sees it every day.”
Hardwick is concerned about the well-being of police officers, present day and in the future.
“It’s probably more dangerous now walking out here or driving around for the way society is going on,” Hardwick said, gesturing toward a window in his Kirksville office. “Things have taken place in the world of law enforcement. Every day, there are situations where officers are injured or killed.
“It’s a serious matter and it seems like you don’t see any end in sight of it.”