- Associated Press - Sunday, November 18, 2018

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Bill Hollenbeck’s eight years as sheriff have almost come to a close, and he’s grateful for every one of them.

Hollenbeck is stepping down as sheriff of Sebastian County, closing out 28 years at the Sheriff’s Office and 36 total years in law enforcement. Hollenbeck at his recent retirement reception reflected on his time at the helm of the Sheriff’s Office.

“There have been a lot of good memories, a lot of sad memories. It’s flown by, but if I had to change it, I would not change a thing,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed by having a great family and great members of our department. We have a great law enforcement community here that truly cares for the community. To get to be a small part of it to get to lead these men and women? You couldn’t have asked for a better job.”

Hollenbeck during his time as sheriff started initiatives that lowered the Sebastian County Jail population and addressed opioid abuse in the county. He also upgraded the technology at the Sheriff’s Office and pushed for more community policing among his deputies, the Southwest Times Record reported.

But officials at the retirement reception touted the opening of the Five West Crisis Stabilization Unit, which Hollenbeck lobbied for, more than any of his other accomplishments. The CSU opened in March in Fort Smith and diverts the mentally ill in six counties from jail to treatment. Other facilities like it have opened up throughout Arkansas.

“In the next few years, we’re going to see lives saved because of these crisis stabilization units and what Bill was a part of in the state of Arkansas for the mentally ill,” said Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown.

Though Hollenbeck enjoyed success throughout his eight years as sheriff, he addressed a handful of violent incidents as well. Hollenbeck specifically said addressing the slaying of sheriff’s Cpl. Bill Cooper in 2016 was one of the greatest challenges in his law enforcement career.

“That situation was extremely difficult, but it shows the resilience of our department,” Hollenbeck said. “We bounced right back and came to work the next day and continued serving.”

Hollenbeck in 2019 will become the first director of security and facilities for Fort Smith Public Schools. He will be replaced as sheriff on Nov. 19 by interim Sheriff Kevin Nickson and then at the beginning of 2019 by sheriff-elect Hobe Runion.

“I’m excited for sheriff-elect Runion to take the helm,” Hollenbeck said. “He’s going to be a fantastic sheriff, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Nickson, who in 2019 will take over as Runion’s chief deputy, said Hollenbeck’s legacy will carry on.

“We’re going to continue what Sheriff Hollenbeck started,” Nickson said. “We’ll have our department perform at a high level, and we’re going to try some new things.”

“We can look back on a level of professionalism and a time that we expanded our capabilities, we expanded our abilities, we expanded our numbers and our level of training,” Runion said. “Moving forward, we can do great things and build upon what he has done.”


Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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