- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

HARRISBURG, Ark. (AP) - For 35 years, Larry Mills has served Poinsett County as a law enforcement officer, serving the last 20 years as sheriff.

Now, as he prepares to retire at the end of 2016, Mills is looking forward to providing a different kind of service for county residents.

“Woodworking has been my hobby since ninth-grade FFA,” Mills said. “I’ve built everything from gun cabinets to acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins … I’m going to do a lot of work in my shop, and then I’m probably going to go to some of these spring and fall festivals and have a booth space, and display and sell some of my crafts.”

Looking back on his two decades as sheriff, Mills said his success would’ve been impossible without the overwhelming support of the community.

“I’m very thankful, and I’m very appreciative I was given the opportunity to serve my community for 35 years,” Mills said. “Not everybody wants that opportunity; not everybody gets that opportunity.”

Mills said he will retire within a mile of his birthplace, according the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/2hdwp5Y ). The Harrisburg native served four years in the Navy from 1977 to 1981 before coming back home to work in the county jail. From there, he’s served as a city marshal in Fisher, a Harrisburg police officer, a sheriff’s deputy, assistant Harrisburg police chief and Harrisburg police chief, before becoming the sheriff in 1997.

“I’ve always loved people,” Mills said. “I’m a people person. I wasn’t in law enforcement very long before I realized that that was my calling. It never seemed like a job to me. People talk about dreading going to their job or workplace, and it just was never that way with me. I very much enjoyed my work.”

Mills said throughout his career one policy has shaped both his professional and personal life.

“If I could help someone I would, and if I couldn’t, I would tell them that I couldn’t and offer an explanation as to why,” Mills said. “That’s how I’ve tried to live my whole life.”

Chief Deputy Kevin Molder, who is succeeding Mills as sheriff in 2017, noted Mills‘ commitment to character, both inside and outside the office.

“He led his life outside of this job the same way he ran inside the job,” Molder said. “He always did what was right, and that’s what he expected others to do.”

Molder said it’s been an honor working under Mills and hopes to continue his legacy of community involvement.

“He’s been a huge asset,” Molder said. “I didn’t run for sheriff for prestige or power but did it truly to make a difference in the county. I believe he did the same.”

While Mills often dealt with people who were on the wrong side of the law, he said he learned that everyone, and every case, is different.

“You have to keep in mind that everybody’s not alike,” Mills said. “We might wish sometimes that everybody was like us, or would think like us, but the fact of the matter is that’s not the case. You have to treat each case on its own merits. What works in one particular scenario may not work in another.”

Even though he’ll no longer be patrolling the streets, Mills said he will always call Poinsett County home.

“Home is home,” Mills said. “In my lifetime, I’ve done an awful lot of traveling … but when I’m gone about three or four days, I always look forward to coming back home.”

While deciding to retire may be a struggle for some people, Mills said the timing is just right for him to step away.

“I knew that it was my time to retire,” Mills said. “I’ve always hoped that I would know that; I have no regrets about the decision I made to retire.”

Molder said Mill’s leadership leaves him with some big shoes to fill.

“Poinsett County will lose a true leader,” Molder said. “I look forward to taking his place, and I’ll do the best I can to follow in his footsteps.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com


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