“My biggest thing is I am looking forward to serving the citizens.”
That is the mindset of Josh Jerry, who will be taking over the duties of Chief of Police in Shullsburg on Dec. 9, returning to a department he started working part-time for at the beginning of his career before spending the past 16 years at the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.
Jerry stayed in his hometown after high school, joining the fire department, and eventually the EMS squad. Josh said that he had looked up to the members of the volunteer fire department when he was younger, and joining them was an honor.
“Growing up, I just thought really highly of these guys,” Josh recalled. He said once he became a member of the department, there was a sense of service that pushed him to stay. “My biggest thing with (the fire department and EMS) is I like helping people.”
Jerry continues to be a member of the fire department, having had to leave the EMS after expanded training and family duties conflicted.
Jerry had been working for Truck Country in the late 1990s, but he was looking for a change in careers. Inspired by his time as an emergency responder, Josh talked with then-Shullsburg Police Chief John Strauss, and the department sent him off to the police academy. Josh then worked part-time for Shullsburg for approximately a year before he was hired by the Grant County Sheriff’s Department for a full-time deputy post in January 2000.
During his nearly 16-year tenure with the department, Jerry credits two of his now-retired superiors with having a huge influence on him, Sheriff Scott Pedley and Detective Joe Thompson. “They were huge in molding me,” Jerry noted.
Josh singled out Thompson for a number of things he taught him about investigating. “He is the greatest investigator I know. He worked hard every day until the day he left,” Jerry said of Thompson. He shared that Thompson taught him about patience, referring to one drug investigation where a younger Jerry wished to make an arrest, but Thompson looked to see where the investigation would lead to.
Jerry took on more responsibilities at the sheriff’s department as the years progressed. He was a team leader on the joint Lafayette-Green-Monroe CLEAR tactical team, and started a program in the department that helped children who were found to be living in homes with drug labs in them, making sure they did not fall through the cracks.
Jerry said one of the biggest influences on his career is his wife, Karla. “She is my biggest supporter, and my biggest critic,” Jerry quipped. He noted that she kept him grounded, and dealt with raising their three children when he had to be gone for investigations, undercover work, or patrols. “She allows it to happen,” he stated.
He and Karla are raising Abbie-16, Calli-14, and Jackson-11 in the community, which he said made him want to serve the community more. “We’re very invested in the community.”
Having so many connections, with family and friends in the community, Josh said that he is going to approach the job as he would in any other town. “Police work is the same everywhere, its just a different atmosphere,” Jerry explained.
Jerry shared his philosophy on how he deals with people he comes in contact with while on the job. “What I found over the years is that people just want you to treat them fairly, treat them how you want to be treated,” Jerry said.
Jerry said that he comes to the job with his own perspective. “I am not Rick (Moyer), I am not John (Strauss),” Jerry stated, referring to the two previous chiefs. “We’re different people.”
In his new position, Jerry is planning to implement several community programs, ranging from trying to set up a self-defense course for residents to take for a minimal fee, to holding office hours one night a week, to getting into the schools with activities like a weightlifting program.
Jerry said on items like the self-defense course, he was thinking of his oldest daughter, who is a junior and will be soon going to college. On the school-related work, he said he was inspired by his volunteering as a coach, working with youth, while for the office hours he wanted to open a dialogue with the community, letting them know he or another member of the department will be available for whatever they need.
“I want the people to feel comfortable to talk to the department,” Jerry noted. “I am hoping to get to the point one night a week where I am in the office, like Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m., where they know I am not leaving.”
One of the long-term goals Jerry has for the department is to return to having two full-time officers on staff - currently the chief is the only full-time post, with three part-time officers. Jerry said he was open during the interview process about wanting to return to having that second full-time officer. “Shullsburg is a busy little town. No matter what time it is, there are always people moving around.” He said with reporting requirements and the times to cover, it makes sense to have that second officer.