History of the Sheriff's Office

The Otsego County Sheriff's Office is a county police agency with a staff of 23 men and women. It serves and protects a county of 540 square miles from Waters north to Vanderbilt, Johannesburg west to Elmira. This is a thriving and growing community with a population of over 22,000 and is the second fastest growing county in Michigan. The 45th parallel runs through the middle of Otsego County.

The Sheriff is the chief executive officer of the Sheriff's Office, being chose by popular vote. By law, he is the chief conservator of the peace within the county and is responsible for the county jail. He is also charged with aiding the criminal courts, serving civil process, executing judgments, marine and snowmobiles laws, among other duties.

Institution of the Sheriff's Office

The Sheriff's Office was instituted in Michigan in 1835 and is written in the Michigan Constitution that "Every County Shall have a Sheriff." In 1877 the Sheriff's formed the Michigan Sheriff's Association that represents all 83 County Sheriffs today. The first people moved to Otsego County in 1868 for the purpose of lumbering and in about 1872, Otsego Lake Village was started; the first people moved into the Gaylord area in 1872 to 1874, and Gaylord was incorporated as a village in 1881. The Otsego County Sheriff's Office has been serving the citizens of Otsego County with pride and dedication since 1875.

Sheriff's Office Badge

The badge has six points, each point represents one of the tenets that make up the ideology of the Sheriff's Office: character, courtesy, courage, honor, integrity and knowledge. Each member of the Sheriff's Office wears their badge with pride!

Office Motto

Our motto, "Committed to Courtesy and Excellence" states the essential purpose of the Otsego County Sheriff's Office. This office is committed to constantly providing the highest possible quality police service and protection to the citizens and visitors to Otsego County. We believe in and utilize a law enforcement service delivery system that is community and employee based.

Basic Duties

Starting in the 1800s the duties of the Sheriff's Office have been mandated by law. Those duties include: to operate a jail which holds prisoners arrested within the county, provide basic police services to the various villages and Townships within the county.

Today the duties of the Sheriff's Office far exceed those of the past.


The various divisions of the office include:

  • Bailiff
  • Civil Process
  • Corrections
  • Detective
  • Dive Team
  • ERT
  • Evidence Tech
  • Marine
  • Road Patrol
  • Snowmobile

Previous Otsego County Sheriffs

Years in OfficeSheriff
1875 to 1876Samuel Livingston (First Sheriff)
1877 to 1878Henry Parker
1879 to 1882Albert M. Hilton
1883 to 1884Joseph Stafford
1885 to 1886Albert M. Hilton
1887 to 1888Chester C. Mitchell
1889 to 1892Frank Buell
1893 to 1896Riley Manes
1897 to 1898Reuben Caister
1899 to 1900Dexter K. Mitchell
1901 to 1904Thomas Hartwell
1905 to 1908George A. Cook
1909 to 1912George A. Durfee
1913 to 1916Archie B. Culliton
1917 to 1920Ben J. Hecox
1921 to 1922Charles M. Menzies
1923 to 1924Archie B. Culliton
1925 to 1932George A. Durfee
1933 to 1946Jacob M. “Doc” Deadman
1947 to 1980Ralph Joseph Holewinski (Prisoner of War during World War II)
1981 to 1986Robert W. Dowker (Resigned May 10, 1986 (Health))
1986 to 1988Nicholas J. “Nick” Westra (Appointed May 10, 1986 to serve to December 31, 1986. Elected to serve January 1, 1987 to December 31, 1988)
1989 to 1992Paul Schultz
1993 to 1998Donald W. Anderson
1998 to 2012James D. McBride (Appointed to fill term. Previously served as Sheriff of Iosco County, 1985 to 1992)
2013 to PresentMatthew Nowicki