|Stone County Sheriff Richard Hill|
It all began for him when he was a little boy growing up in Springfield, according to Stone County sheriff Richard Hill.
"I had a neighbor, Les Reynolds, who was the retired assistant chief for the Springfield police department. I looked up to him and he took me under his wing and guided me."
After servng a tour in Vietnam with the Marines, Hill was 20 when he entered the SPD police academy in November of 1971 and 21 when he graduated. During his 13 years with the department he moved up the ranks from patrol officer to a major crime investigator.
He also worked two years as an undercover narcotics officer for the department that would become useful later in his career.
Hill left that department and headed for Riverside, California, following the death of his mother in order to be closer to a sister who lived there. Hill's mentor had a father-in-law who worked security for MGM Studios in Culver City. An interview was set up and Hill was soon working for the movie studio...but he missed law enforcement.
In January of 1985, Hill was hired by Ontario, California, police department where he soon found himself working undercover narcotics again. "People don't vacation in Ontario, they're there for business or drug deals." Hill was assigned to a task force that was responsible for undercover operation's at local hotels and the airport. "We saw an increase in drug cases in those areas. We trained the employees on the indicator's of drug traffickers and were very successful."
While part of that task force Hill and his team were responsible for seizing over $3 Million dollars in cash in one bust at one of the hotels and intercepted two people from the mid west who came to town with $4 Million dollars to buy heroin and cocaine from a Colombian drug lord in another. Also seized was the drug lord's Lear Jet.
"My biggest case there probably was a case out of Canada where we had some individuals coming to Ontario to purchase cocaine and we intercepted that. At the time, it was the largest drug conspiracy case in the history of Calgary."
In 1989 while busting a methamphetamine lab, Hill injured his knee. The doctor would not release him to go back to patrol and at that time the Ontario police department would not let officers work a desk job.
Hill and his wife found themselves missing life in the Ozarks and in 1990 they moved "back home." "I grew up in Springfield and always loved it down here at the lake. We knew this is where we wanted to be."
The Hill's ran a home business for a while until Mrs. Hill decided that retirement didn't suit her husband.
In 1993 he went to work for Christian County Sheriff Steve Whitney and quickly moved to chief deputy.
In February of 1994 Stone County Sheriff Lonnie Mease called and offered Hill a job as his chief deputy. In October of 1995 Sheriff Mease was called back to the railroad and in order for him to receive his pension he had to go back to work. He trusted Hill enough to leave him with the day to day operations of the department for several months.
In February of 1996 Hill and eleven other people filed for Sheriff. Hill said his platform was that he wasn't from here, therefore he didn't owe anybody any favors. It won him the election.
Hill has been sheriff since January 1, 1997, "I still love the job and get up every morning and look forward to coming to work. One of the highlights of being sheriff for me is having the opportunity to watch young officer's grow and develop them."
It's also the job that he hopes voter's re-elect him to in August. "I have the experience of running a department, I've operated a jail very successfully and oversee a department with numerous employees. I hope my track record speaks for itself."
Next week we will have an interview with Branson West police chief Doug Rader who is also running for sheriff.