Insider Viewpoint: Bart May reflects on career after 31 years

Sheriff Bart May is retiring from law enforcement following 31 years of service.

After serving as a Deputy Sheriff/Sheriff for 31 years, I am planning on retiring December 31, 2020. I sought out a career as a Law Enforcement Officer because I was an adrenaline junkie and the thought of chasing down speeding vehicles and taking various high-risk calls seemed right up my ally. However, I soon realized that what I truly enjoyed about being in Law Enforcement came from serving and helping others.

I began my career in Clark County from 1989 to 1991, before moving to Bonneville County where I worked as a patrol man and an undercover narcotics officer from 1991 to 1996. My family and I moved back home to Clark County in 1996 where I was elected Sheriff in 2010.

In Clark County, we require everyone on our Law Enforcement team to be a certified Emergency Medical Technician. Reflecting back on my career, the moments and memories I cherish most have come from being able to help or save someone’s life, especially when they have come back later to express gratitude. It has been because of experiences like these that I have stayed in Law Enforcement as long as I have.

A career in Law Enforcement has not always been an easy one. I have always loved being a police officer and used to hold my head very high, proud to tell others what I did for a living. However, somewhere in the last 10 years of being a Sheriff, dealing with the politics that come from being an elected official, individuals who have their minds made up about you before they’ve even seen the job you do, as well as reputation police officers have received in recent years has slowly changed my love for the job. In today’s world anytime I went to meetings I tried to take unmarked vehicles, and if a had to be in a marked vehicle I found myself parking in adjacent parking lots and walking to restaurants, hoping nobody would see me as a police officer. I have tried to sit in corner booths with my back to the wall, always aware of my surroundings. Today, as a Law Enforcement Officer, no matter where I am, I feel the need to always look over my shoulder. It should not be this way and this is something I will not miss.

As the Sheriff of Clark County, I have learned it takes a lot to run a county. Without good help it is impossible. I have been extremely fortunate to have the very best in employees, nevertheless being a small agency means that there are not the captains, lieutenants, and additional personnel to delegate responsibilities to. It is a never-ending battle to keep public safety up and running. In the past ten years we have upgraded our 911 system twice, as well as implemented a “text to 911” system. I have managed as we have run our entire Sheriff’s Office and Jail on a 2019 budget of only $515,965, and only spending $423,000 of that budget, I’m proud to have never gone over budget. As Sheriff I am also over all Search and Rescue operations in the county and therefore have a 30-member volunteer Search and Rescue team that have been absolutely invaluable to me. I have been so fortunate to have such amazing men and women that are always there to help.

Over the course of my career I have arrested three of the U.S. Marshals most wanted individuals. There have been calls I’ve been dispatched to at 1:00 a.m. where the suspect has told me if I didn’t shoot them, they were going to strip me of my gun and take my life and theirs. I’ve given death notifications to people who have just lost a loved one, seen bodies after calls and accidents that no person should have to see, dealt with drug addicts who were tripping, sex offenders that had raped children, as well as cold blooded murderers, and thieves. I’ve had a bucket of toilet water poured over my head, been involved in a 5-car accident, and been hit head on by a drunk driver traveling in excess of 100 mph. I’ve broke my ankle, tore everything in my knee and had several concussions while in the line of duty. All of those things are worth it to me because of the people I have been able to serve, work with, and the amazing family my wife and I have raised.

In spite of all the negative press being in Law Enforcement receives, it has been one of the most fulfilling and satisfying careers I could have asked for. Although I’m sure that I will have a hard time adjusting to no longer being a cop, I know that my Chief Deputy, John Clements, will serve the people of Clark County well.

I want to thank all those that have helped me throughout my career, especially my beautiful supportive wife. Without so many good people in my life this would have been an impossible job. I have been very fortunate to have the cooperation and collaboration, as well as a great working relationship, with many outside agencies. I would specifically like to thank those with the Idaho State Police, Family Crisis Center, Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center, Tri-County Probation, Forest Service, Idaho Sheriffs Association, the City of Dubois, Clark County Commissioners and most of all the Tri-County Sheriffs Association. Thank you all for the amazing work you do, you are so appreciated.