The Sheriff of Barry County, Missouri is hanging up his holster for good at the end of this year.

Mick Epperly has served in law enforcement for 28-years, all of it, in some role with the Barry County Sheriff’s Department.

“I’m not one of those persons that said, ‘I always wanted to be a deputy or always wanted to be a sheriff,’” he says, “but after I went to the classes and school, I really enjoyed it.”

When Epperly started with the Barry County Sheriff’s Department in 1989, he was one of three deputies –the department now has 21.

“Here’s a picture that we put on our calendar years ago,” Epperly says while picking up a department photo from behind his desk.

Epperly served as a deputy for eight years before being elected Sheriff for the first time in 1996, since then, he has served four consecutive terms.

“I appreciate the trust [voters] put in me to run the county,” he says, “to try and solve the crimes and to keep a good sheriff’s office here,”

While the number of solved crimes outweigh the unsolved, Epperly still remembers the 1999 murder case of Gary McCullough.

“We’re pretty sure we know how that one went,” Epperly says, “but you’ve got to be able to prove it in court.”

The outgoing sheriff has also had to try and tackle the county’s drug problem.

“We’ve taken a lot of big dealers off the street. I’m proud of that,” he says. “A lot of people that thought [drug use] was cool are in my jail right now or in prison.”

Epperly is also proud of the priorities he’s stuck to during his time in office like the “In God We Trust” stickers on his squad cars.

While he will soon be handing back the keys to his squad vehicle, he says it’s the right time to do so. He plans on spending his retirement making up for lost time with his family.

“As you know, sheriff’s business is a stressful job, and some of that was working on my health a little bit,” Epperly says.

“I love the job, still love it,” he says. “But I do want to spend some time, good quality family time, especially with my grandkids.”

A retirement party is planned for Epperly on December 28 from 2-4pm at the Barry County Judicial Center in Cassville.

By Grant Sloan | gsloan@kolr10.com