Staff Writer

School is in session for Sheriff Jason Landers and the 12 Paulding County residents who were selected to be a part of the inaugural Paulding County Sheriff’s Citizenship Academy.

Monday night, in the conference room at Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative, Sheriff Landers kicked off the first session of an eight week course designed to educate the public about the duties and responsibilities of the sheriff’s office.

The first night focused on the office of the Sheriff, its statue-dictated mission, and the history of the office, going back to its origins in England in 500 A.D., history in the United States, the state of Ohio and Paulding County.

Over the course of the two and a half-hour session, Landers also provided attendees with an overview of the resources and tools available to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, as well as provided them with his biography and career history.

“I’m passionate about the job,” said Landers. “I could talk about it all day long. So what better way to get to know people and get to share what I’m passionate about than the Citizenship Academy.”

Landers said the idea for a citizenship academy was given to him back in 2012 while he was training for the office in Columbus.

The academy is being held in conjunction with the Paulding County Vision Board, whose aim is to improve the quality of life for residents.

Erika Willitzer, Vision Board member at-large and marketing and economic development manager at Paulding Putnam, believes the goals of the office of sheriff and the Citizenship Academy fit perfectly with the Vision Boards objectives.

Willitzer said the board ran a survey of 1,100 people in Paulding County, asking what issues they wanted to see addressed in the community. Drugs and crime ranked high among the issues respondents selected.

As an attendee herself, Willitzer said she was excited to learn all of the different aspects of the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t think people realize what they’re up against, what their obstacles are,” Willitzer said. “If they did realize what their up against, maybe their would be more cooperation throughout the county.”

Among the others in attendance was Ann Pease, Paulding County clerk of the courts, along with two members of her staff.

Pease said although she and her staff work in the court system every day, there are many aspects of the process they do not know about.

“The new Sheriff, Jason, has done so much for this county to bring the public and the Sheriff’s Office together,” Pease said. “We all three just want to know more about the Sheriff’s office.”

Over the next seven weeks, participants will have the opportunity to hear from deputies, tour the Sheriff’s communication center and county jail and be given demonstrations.

County Prosecutor Joe Burkard and Judge Tiffany Beckman are scheduled to speak to the class on week seven during the discussion on the criminal justice system.

Sheriff Landers hopes those in the academy come away with not only a greater appreciation for the office he holds, but the other 73 staff members of the sheriff’s department too.

“I get thanked for jobs that are completed, I get complimented for cases that are resolved. I have little role in that,” Landers said. “I understand why people compliment me, but these are the people doing the work. I’m going to love to sit back watch them teach.”