HENNEPIN — When Putnam County Sheriff Kevin Doyle began his law enforcement career, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office was a one-cell operation in an outdated 19th-century building.
In an interview as his sixth term as sheriff was about to begin, Doyle reflected on his law enforcement career and the department he has led for 20 years.
Born and raised in Standard and a graduate of Putnam County High School, Doyle earned an associate’s degree at Kishwaukee College in Malta and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at the University of Illinois in Springfield.
After serving as a local deputy for more than five years, he was elected to his first term as Putnam County sheriff in 1998 with 69 percent of the vote.
In the 20 years since, his guidance and leadership have transformed the sheriff’s office into a fully modernized law enforcement agency that’s not only successfully investigated major crimes and handled natural disaster emergencies, but also retained the personability so often associated with small, rural communities.
“I think the one thing this office has been built on is customer service. It’s all about the people,” Doyle said.
After the 911 Act was established in late 1999, Doyle soon found himself serving as the chairman of the local 911 board, as well as sheriff. His efforts resulted in the county receiving $900,000 in grant money that was used to fund the majority of the $1.3 million construction costs of the current Putnam County Sheriff’s Office building and 911 center.
Doyle said the county’s 911 center is not only up to date with current equipment standards, but is also well prepared for the next generation of technology.
He said he resisted initial suggestions to consolidate with other counties and instead took the prudent approach of focusing the county’s 911 resources on maximizing local capabilities.
The sheriff’s office also helped successfully manage and coordinate the immediate recovery efforts of the widespread destruction caused by the tornadoes that struck Magnolia and Granville.
“It’s been a tremendous change since I began,” Doyle said.
“We’ve went from a run-down 1800s building with one cell to a modern jail with three cells and a state-of-the-art 911 center,” he said of his 20 years as sheriff.
He was asked how Putnam County has changed over those two decades.
“The people. I know a lot less of the people now. because there’s not as much of the sense of community as there once was,” he said.
“I think it’s because a lot of our kids are no longer coming back to their hometowns, and we also have a lot more renters now who have no former connection to the county.”
The biggest news from the sheriff’s most recent term was two separate investigations that resulted in the murder convictions of Clifford Andersen and Richard Henderson. The sheriff was asked what impact, if any, those two cases had on his office.
“Though those were very unfortunate incidents, I think we stepped up, and together with the many other law enforcement agencies in the area, helped solve these crimes,” Doyle said.
“Our Major Case Squad really shined with their investigations and, from start to finish, we learned how well we could network with the other departments in the Illinois Valley to make the most out of our available resources to help close those cases,” he said.
Sheriff Doyle, who was unopposed in the Nov. 6 election, was asked about what changes or challenges he expects to face during his sixth term, which began on Dec. 1.
“Number one is the budget, there’s no doubt about that, and being able to retain our deputies and dispatchers. We have a great group of people working here, and I don’t want to lose anyone,” he said.
Lastly, he was asked what he enjoys about holding the office of Putnam County sheriff.
“Being able to help people on a daily basis. And I don’t just mean in a law enforcement capacity, but with giving advice to people to help with their day-to-day problems and taking those extra steps that we may not be required to take, but which make all the difference to them,” he said.