Former Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton will need to build a new wing onto his home to have wall space to hang on the plaques and certificates of appreciation he received Monday afternoon during his retirement reception at St. Michael’s Parish Hall.
GIRARD - Former Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton will need to build a new wing onto his home to have wall space to hang on the plaques and certificates of appreciation he received Monday afternoon during his retirement reception at St. Michael's Parish Hall.
New Sheriff Dan Peak, who was sworn into office Monday morning, acted as emcee for the occasion.
“It's been a pretty emotional morning for me, and I'm glad to have that behind us,” he said.
“Now it's my turn,” Horton said. “I've got plenty of Kleenex and I hate to think who's going to need them. To my employees, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
His honors started with a certificate of appreciation from Kirk Thompson, KBI director, who praised Horton for “stepping up in local, regional and state initiatives.”
Bruce Adams represented the office of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
“The first time I met Sandy Horton, I was a brand new KBI agent and was brought down to process a vehicle involved with a homicide,” he said. “This big tall guy with bright red hair said, 'Hi, I'm Undersheriff Sandy Horton.' There are 100 stories from that day to this day. Sandy has established a well-documented record of leadership.”
Adams cited his role in the founding of the Southeast Kansas Drug Enforcement Task Force and his support that led to the KBI Lab in Pittsburg.
A Kansas Highway Patrol contingent, led by Col. Ernest Garcia, superintendent, also brought a plaque.
“I met Sandy a couple of years ago,” Garcia said. “He's a downhome, common sense Kansan. I saw Sandy as someone I could rely on and trust. He is a pillar of law enforcement.”
The Kansas Department of Transportation hailed Horton for the SAFE program, designed to increase seat belt usage among young people.
“According to the Kansas State Observational Seltbelt Survey, in 2008 the 15-17-year-old seatbelt usage rate in Crawford County was 38 percent,” said Laura Moore, state SAFE coordinator. “After the SAFE program had been part of Crawford County schools for four years, in 2012, the usage rate went up to 79 percent, 1 percent higher than the state average. SAFE has reached over 40,000 high school students and provided me with the job of a lifetime.”
Moore added that it would be difficult to calculate just how many young lives have been saved because more teens are wearing seatbelts, thanks to Horton.
Pam Henderson read a letter to Horton from U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, and Peak read a letter from Gov. Sam Brownback.
“I personally want to thank you, Sandy,” said Pittsburg Police Chief Mendy Hulvey. “Whatever we've needed, day or night, you've given us.”
Page 2 of 2 - George Powers, representing the Pittsburg Ministerial Association, thanked Horton for recognizing the importance of a spiritual dimension when dealing with family members receiving the news of a loved one's death.
Marty Beezley read a proclamation from Pittsburg Mayor John Ketterman, proclaiming Jan. 14, 2013, as Sandy Horton Day in Pittsburg.
A different view came from Horton's daughter, Mandy, who discussed what it's like to be a sheriff's teenage daughter, including what happens when your dad finds out you're planning a party and he sends 10 police cars to line the street so everybody is afraid to come in the house.
And then there was the time when a boy called her father a “pig,” a derogatory term for law officer.
“Dad kind of smiled and said, 'Pride, integrity and guts',” his daughter said.Peak and the deputies presented Horton with a 40-inch screen TV, just time for the Super Bowl, so he and they will have a decent-sized TV to watch the big game, and also a framed photo of “Horton's Curve,” where the sheriff once had a roll-over.
“Two little old ladies pulled him out of the car,” Peak said.
After it was all over, Horton admitted it had been a tough day for him, but said that he would enjoy spending more time with his grandchildren and with his children.
“The family kind of gets slighted with this kind of job,” he said. “I missed a lot of occasions, like birthdays.”
Horton is also now executive director of the Kansas Sheriff's Association, and will be working with sheriffs across the state.
“I'll miss a lot, but I'm looking forward to a lot,” Horton said.
Peak said he was very pleased with the turnout at the reception.
“We had a lot more here than we anticipated,” he said, noting that law enforcement from across the state came to honor his former boss.
Now it's his turn in the sheriff''s job, and Peak is looking forward to that.
“I'll be happy if I have half the career Sandy had,” he said.