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Jim Drozdz 2017 "Officer of the Year" Award Presented in Hancock County

Joy Swearingen, Correspondent

Bob Baxter received the Jim Drozdz "Officer of the Year" award Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the opening of the regular Hancock County Board meeting.

Baxter of Tennessee works a three-day shift with the Hancock County Sheriff's office. County Sheriff Scott Bentzinger presented the award that was started in 2015 to honor the late State's Attorney Jim Drozdz.

Baxter was cited for his dependability, positive attitude and calm demeanor, particularly during his duty overseeing the courthouse when court is in session.

"Jim Drozdz insisted on perfection. Bob Baxter definitely meets that qualification," Bentzinger said.

Baxter works two days at the courthouse and patrols one day a week throughout the county.

"I am quite honored," said Baxter. "I consider what we do in the sheriff's department as team work. It is a great team. I know I am one of the officers who have been around for a while, but I gain a lot of advice from these younger guys."

County Clerk Kerry Asbridge added: "As someone who is in the courthouse every day, I know that sometimes feelings in the courtroom can get pretty agitated. One of Bob's strengths is that he has a tremendous ability to bring situations to a cooler level, to patiently bring emotions down. All of us can learn from that."

Each police chief in the county can make a nomination and has a vote for the award. Baxter's wife, Marilyn, and their son Wyatt, who also works at the Sheriff's Office, came for the presentation, as well as 16 other officers from the sheriff's staff and city policemen, and current State's Attorney Jason Pohren.

The board heard from John Massie, president of the Hancock Public Building Commission, about changes being considered for the old Hancock County Jail on the south side of the square.

The jail ownership was transferred from the Public Building Commission to the Hancock County Historic Preservation Association after the new county jail was opened in 1987. That group made a major renovation of the old jail and sheriff's residence.

The Historic Preservation Association is wanting to dissolve and turn the jail back to the county or sell it to a private owner. These agencies will meet with the county Building and Grounds Committee to work out the details in future months.

The former county jail is the oldest building on the square and was used as the county jail from 1886 to 1986. It is on the National Historical Registry. Utilities for the courthouse are connected to the building through a tunnel under the street.

In other business, the board:

-Learned the EMS service has received state approval of the plan to discontinue the Warsaw BLS ambulance, and to have ALS ambulances housed in Carthage and Warsaw.

-Approved a letter acknowledging radio station WCAZ for its contributions to the citizens of Hancock County and beyond in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

-Passed a resolution 9 to 6, urging the Illinois General Assembly not to fund HB 40 for state payments for abortions, noting this violates the balanced budget amendment since it could cost an estimated $15 million annually.

-Adopted a resolution required by the state concerning prevention of sexual harassment.

Sheriff Scott Bentzinger, left, presented the Jim Drozdz Officer of the Year award to Bob Baxter. At right are Mike Boley, Nauvoo Police Chief, and Hancock County State's Attorney, Jason Pohren. -Joy Swearingen/photo