From Explorer Scout to Sheriff

If the editors of the Miriam Webster Dictionary ever need an example of the word “Change,” they should look no farther than Scott Lewis’ first term as sheriff of St. Charles County.

The day he was sworn into office — Jan. 1, 2015 — was also the day that the law enforcement side of the sheriff’s office split off to become the St. Charles County Police Department. That meant the sheriff’s office would no longer handle patrol, calls for service, investigations and support services. Instead, they would be responsible for civil process, the courts and prisoner transport — only.

The change was the result of an amendment to the county charter approved by voters in 2012.

“When you couple that with the fact that I’m the only sheriff elected at the mid-term cycle so no new-sheriff training was available, you’ll understand why those first couple years I was just feeling my way around, trying to figure things out,” he said. “Although issues still arise occasionally, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Sheriff Lewis, who just started his second term, said responsibility for the courts requires his office to provide deputies to patrol the St. Charles County Court, the Juvenile Justice Center and the St. Charles County Municipal Court; marshals for court security checkpoints; clerks to work with the juries; and bailiffs for all the courtrooms.

Because he has just 13 bailiffs to cover the 13 courtrooms, that can be challenging.

“In the ‘old days,’ patrol deputies would supplement staffing but we no longer have that back-up. I don’t have a lot of resources so when I have big cases, I have to pull bailiffs out of other courts, leaving them uncovered. That isn’t ideal, so I’m looking at solutions,” the sheriff said.

On the civil process side, deputies serve papers, enforce court orders and handle everything related to the transportation of prisoners. Civil process and prisoner transport had been split into two different divisions but Sheriff Lewis combined them, offering better scheduling options and more flexibility. He said he’s also replaced outdated methods of figuring best transport routes and fees.

“Our clerks were spending hours trying to figure out what to charge to serve papers, especially for some of the bulk filers, so we went to a flat fee, which has made things much easier,” he said, adding that although the job “has its days,” he’s taken it all in stride because working in law enforcement had been his life’s ambition since turning 14 and joining the Police Explorer Program at the St. Peters Police Department.

After high school, he attended the University of Central Missouri on a football scholarship, majoring in political science. After graduating, he took a job in security at Northwest Plaza Shopping Center in St. Ann. It was there that he met the man who helped set his course for the future.

“The director of security, Evan Thebeau, was a former sheriff of St. Charles County and he influenced my decision to go into law enforcement. He introduced me to the police chief of Wentzville who hired me as a reserve officer and sponsored me through the academy. It’s funny — when I attended the academy, I felt like I was way ahead of everyone else because of my experience as an Explorer Scout. The officers had taken me under their wing so we weren’t just riding around in the car — they were teaching me,” he said. After graduating from the academy in 1990 he immediately went to work as a fulltime patrol officer for Wentzville.

He left in 1997 to take a job as chief of the Cottleville Police Department and held that spot for the next 18 years, dually serving 15 of the 18 as Cottleville’s city administrator.
In 2014, he decided it was time for a change and filed to run for sheriff.

“Tom Neer, the sheriff at the time, was retiring. I had served as campaign treasurer in his last run for office, and since I had gotten interested in politics in college, I decided it was time to combine my two interests,” he said, giving his wife, Amy, much credit for his win. “She campaigned, she organized float decorating committees for all the parades and she and I ate lots of fried chicken that summer attending numerous parish picnics. She was my biggest supporter and a huge help!”

Now that campaigning is behind him for another four years, Sheriff Lewis said they plan to spend lots of time this summer on the Mississippi River, boating and camping with their three sons. “Other than my job, there’s nothing I like better.”

 

By Nancy Zoellner-Hogland