Kent County’s sheriff is retiring


Lawrence Stelma. Courtesy Kent County

The long-time sheriff of Kent County has announced his retirement.

In a letter to the county dated Aug. 9, Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma said he will retire, effective Nov. 1.

The sheriff's department also said he submitted his intent to retire to the clerk’s office.

The department has about 650 staff members and a budget of about $70 million, according to sergeant Joel Roon.

Stelma’s letter said he has spent the past decade dealing with “serious family medical issues.”

“I can no longer devote adequate time to both the sheriff’s office and my family, and the next generation of leadership is ready and willing to move the organization forward,” Stelma wrote.

Stelma began his service with Kent County in 1972 as a deputy in the jail and continued with experience in almost every division of the department.

He was elected sheriff in 2001 and has since been re-elected for five consecutive terms.

In 2017, he was named Sheriff of the Year by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.

The sheriff's department said Stelma’s “investment in his staff and his strong belief in mentorship have been key elements” throughout his tenure.

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to work for a leader whose fundamental goal is to guide and develop his staff through mentorship,” Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said.

“His approach to mentorship and his unwavering leadership are directly tied to the culture we are so proud of at the KCSO. We will miss him dearly, and we wish him all the best on his next adventure.”

Selection process for next sheriff

The selection committee for the new sheriff includes Chief Probate Judge David Murkowski, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and County Clerk/Register Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

The panel will meet next Tuesday morning to select a committee chair and begin the search process, which will include a period of time for application submissions, according to Rob Macomber, chief deputy county clerk.

Macomber said the clerk wants to move swiftly yet thoroughly to meet the Nov. 1 retirement date.

The new sheriff will have to seek election in the August 2020 primary and again in that year’s November election.

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