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Thank you, Sheriff Donnie Barrera

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Rory Ryan

By Rory Ryan
The Highland County Press

Being in the business that I am in, I have known quite a few law enforcement officers over the years – including those who may or may not have arrested me.

Highland County has been fortunate to have had many good sheriffs in the last half-century since I've been paying attention. Walt Reffitt, Hugh Rogers, Earl Mahaffey, Tom Horst and Ron Ward come to mind to name just a few – well, five. (For those former sheriffs I may have missed, like Chuck Middleton and Richard Warner, my apologies.)

Also included in that august company is current Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, who announced his pending May 31 retirement at the May 22 meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.

When Donnie informed me that he was running for county sheriff a decade or so ago, I endorsed him and wished him well. We have known each other for a good 50 years, and I had no reason not to support his candidacy.

The sheriff’s early retirement comes after more than 30 years at the Highland County Sheriff's Office. He took office as Highland County sheriff Nov. 24, 2014 and has worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 1993, being promoted to sergeant in 1999 and having roles in all divisions of the department.

"It's been a pleasure working for the folks of Highland County," Donnie said this week. "I will miss all the people I've had the pleasure of serving."

In addition to Sheriff Barrera's service, it also should be pointed out that his wife, Jacquie, served the HCSO as a volunteer for 10 years. Both have been great public servants.

As The Highland County Press reported, Barrera told commissioners he is looking forward to spending more time with family and pursuing other interests. Nothing at all wrong with that. I am already envious of Donnie.

The sheriff’s race is set to appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, with Barrera’s term officially expiring Jan. 5, 2025. His replacement has not yet officially been named, but the only and obvious choice is Randy Sanders, the Republican nominee and lone candidate on the ballot this fall. Randy's a good man. Citizens should welcome and support him as sheriff.

Highland County Republican Party Executive Chair Paulette Donley told The Highland County Press that Barrera met with the GOP Central Committee to announce his early retirement. 

She said that the group “stood and gave him applause,” as Barrera has been “so well liked” during his tenure. Donley said that Barrera has also been a selfless department head, “always good about giving praise to the” staff of the Sheriff’s Office “and not himself."

No, Donnie has never been one to seek credit or acclaim. He was not like that as a baseball teammate when we were just kids, and he has never been like that in public office. That's just not his style. Donnie is a very humble and a mostly private public servant. He does his job, does it well and just does it unassumingly because, in fact, that is his job. He understands.

“We as the party thank him for his 30-plus years of public service to the sheriff’s department and as sheriff,” Paulette Donley said this week. “We wish him well in his retirement and thank him profusely for taking this office through a lot of substantially difficult times. We feel that he’s done that honorably, and with the safety and concern for all of the people of Highland County in mind. For that, we thank him.”

Some of those difficult times, as have been reported, involved very stressful personnel matters. For anyone who has managed a public office or a private business, we know personnel issues are more stressful than even bottom-line issues. Personnel issues are personal. Often, very personal. 

In addition, about midway through his tenure as county sheriff, Donnie's mother, Carol Barrera, passed away on Feb. 2, 2020. Those of us (all of us) who have lost loved ones understand.

This week, Highland County commissioners praised Barrera for his service to the county.

"Thank you for your service," County Commission President David Daniels said. "You've done a great job as sheriff."

More than 4,100 Highland County voters who elected Donnie would agree. Among Barrera's career accomplishments are: Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Community Service Award by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, 2013; Highland County OVI Award, 2001; Distinguished Service Award from the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, 1998; Lifesaving Recognition Award from Division of Parks and Recreation, 1998; and Highland County Sheriff's Office Deputy of the Year Award, 1996.

Prior to becoming sheriff, Barrera served the community as a deputy, beginning in 1993. He was promoted to sergeant in 1999. During his tenure, he worked all divisions of the Highland County Sheriff's Office.

After being elected, I know Donnie was proud of the HCSO passing jail standard inspections, with the Justice Center being named as one of the top 10 cleanest jail facilities in the state of Ohio. 

In other words, he cared – and that included a measure of compassion for the inmates. 

That's significant, in my opinion. As one of my favorites priests has said before, "We are all God's children." That includes the jail inmates. Donnie has always tried to be fair to everyone.

Thank you, Donnie, for your many years of law enforcement service. You have always been great to work with. All the best in your well-deserved retirement. I owe you one.

Below (l-r) are Sheriffs Ron Ward, Donnie Barrera and Tom Horst.

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Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.

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