Scott Hodshire, a former corrections officer and marine patrol deputy, is running for Hillsdale County Sheriff and said he hopes to bring back programs such as the GED and work programs for inmates.
Hodshire, a lifelong resident of Hillsdale County, currently works with a management team and said that as sheriff, he wants to see more community involvement with the office. The sheriff’s office needs to reinstate a variety of programs it cut over the last several years in order to ensure more community safety and involvement, he said. One such program is the work inmate program, which Hodshire said would benefit the economy if restored.
“It brings in additional funds for the county,” Hodshire said. “We can take these inmates to work for, say, the fairgrounds. They pay us to come in and clean up the trash, prepare for the fair, and help clean up after the fair. It’s good money, and it’s no expense to the sheriff’s office.”
He noted that other nonprofits could hire jail inmates for service. But beyond the financial benefit, the program is a good thing for inmates. Bringing back the community service framework is part of this program. Hodshire said inmates need rehabilitation, something he saw during his time as a corrections officer. The work, he said, can be as simple as mowing grass, raking and picking up leaves, and collecting trash.
“We no longer clean the roadsides,” Hodshire said. “But it gets inmates out of the jail and gets them productive. It gets them into a work reform. The community can see these guys out working, knowing that they’re not just sitting in jail doing their time.”
Hodshire emphasized how important it is for inmates to get used to working and contributing to society. If they aren’t working, he said, the sheriff’s office needs to “get them on the working path.” Beyond the work, though, it’s important inmates have a good GED program, something the county is currently lacking, according to Hodshire.
“Let’s get them educated while they’re in there,” he said.
In addition to working on the inmate situation, Hodshire plans to address the opioid crisis and its effect on the county. Because of this serious drug issue, as well as problems with methamphetamine, law enforcement must be more diligent in working with community partners to combat substance abuse. For this to work, he said the sheriff’s office needs to implement a system where all community organizations work together in Hillsdale and nearby counties.
“We need to restore the drug team,” Hodshire said. “We need to work with our neighboring counties, get a task force going, and work with the City of Hillsdale.”
The sheriff’s office used to be part of a multi-agency drug team called OMNI, which included Michigan State Police, sheriff’s deputies, and other law enforcement officers, according to Hodshire. The team, he said, was cut about eight years ago. Since that time, there have been efforts to partner with the City of Hillsdale and other agencies, but Hodshire said only a full-time team will really help the county with substance abuse.
Once a system is in place, Hodshire said, it’s important to begin educating the public on the opioid crisis. One way to do this is with public seminars.
When it comes to community safety, Hodshire wants to restore neighborhood watch programs, as well as address school safety issues. Bringing back the neighborhood watch program could not only increase the county’s safety, but it allows people to become more engaged in their community, according to Hodshire.
Meanwhile, Hodshire noted that school shootings are a serious issue right now. He wants the sheriff’s office to have more of a hand in providing security and training teachers.
“We need to get our teachers educated in school lockdowns and shootings,” Hodshire said. “And we need to get a deputy in the schools every day. He’s not going to be there for eight hours a day, and we’ll have him rotate, but we need an officer in the schools every day.”
In his goals of increasing security, Hodshire said one of his priorities will be to address the issue of jail overcrowding. There are about 67 inmates in the Hillsdale County Jail at any given time, according to Hodshire, and there’s a need to add more bedspace.
“I want to apply for federal grants for an addition to the jail,” he said. “That way, it’s not a catch and release situation. Right now, if you’re sentenced to 15 days in jail, and we’re overcrowded, the judge is going to give you five days.”
Hodshire said these additions would also allow Hillsdale County to rent out bedspace to neighboring counties if the jail isn’t full.
On the streets, Hodshire said the sheriff’s office needs to bring back the third shift, or “midnight,” patrol. Sheriff Timothy Parker cut the midnight patrol in November 2019, citing a lack of staff. Hodshire said the first shift is overstaffed right now and that the sheriff’s office should move command staff to cover the third shift.
But he also said staff shortage is a big problem he wants to address as sheriff.
“We need to dive in and find out why we lost 13 deputies in the last three years. They’re not happy,” he said, adding that a top concern is to find out why this is the case.
During his days working for the sheriff’s office, Hodshire worked alongside David Braxmaier, a former captain in the office. Braxmaier remembers when Hodshire joined as a patrol officer, and he also noted that three of Hodshire’s brothers also worked for the office at some point. Jeremiah Hodshire worked as undersheriff before going to Hillsdale Hospital, where he now serves as the CEO.
Braxmaier said Hodshire has the right temperament for the job.
“Depending on what the scenario is, you adapt to it. Scott never had a problem out in the field,” Braxmaier said. “As a corrections officer, he had a lot more situations where the people aren’t as friendly. Dealing with inmates, he always got along, established himself well, and was a leader. Scott’s never been a follower.”
Even though Hodshire hasn’t worked in the sheriff’s office for the last several years, Braxmaier said, he has kept up with law enforcement and the current laws. Braxmaier said he believes Hodshire will bring a “fresh set of eyes” and “high hopes of making changes.”
Susan Smith, executive director of the Hillsdale Economic Development Partnership, has been involved with Hodshire’s campaign by sitting in on meetings he held with local leaders. She said Hodshire has a “multi-level understanding of our community.”
“He understands the family perspective, coming from a big family and having a family of his own,” she said. “He’s also been involved with public and private businesses and has a law enforcement background. Law enforcement has to have a well-rounded understanding of the community. It helps when dealing with people because everybody’s a little different.”
From an economics perspective, Smith said bringing back the work program for inmates would be a smart move.
“It’s no benefit to have people sit in a cell and not be productive,” she said. “They don’t have a daily mission. They need to be doing something to maintain connectivity to the community. And it’s important they restore some benefit to the community because it’s costly to have people incarcerated.”
Hodshire said it’s important for employees in the sheriff’s office to not get too comfortable in the job.
“When we’re in a job for so long, we become complacent. It becomes a day-to-day operation,” Hodshire said. “But let’s bring this county to the next level. Let’s be proactive, not reactive.”