Scott Hod­shire is running for Hillsdale County Sheriff in the August 2020 Election. | Facebook

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.”