The McLean County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the career of George Ballard on Friday, retiring from law enforcement after a collective 30 years in the field.
Born and raised in Owensboro, Ballard, 56, became fascinated with the world of law enforcement at a young age.
“When I was about 7 or 8, my dad had friends who were state troopers,” Ballard said. “One of them would come by the house and let me get in his police car…and then I was hooked.
“When you saw that police car or that police car and that uniform – it’s just something about that personality of that person that you knew they were in charge of and you knew something that you would call ( them) and (they) do it. They would take care of you and do whatever it takes. I’m very lucky that the law enforcement I grew up with were very committed to public service and were there if people needed it, and that kind of drew me to (the profession).
Ballard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1982 and trained after graduating from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1983.
He served four years, starting as a cook by trade before joining the field operations team assisting in supervision, where he was deployed to Honduras in 1984 and to Okinawa, Japan in 1986 and 1987.
“I’ve never had to cook so much,” Ballard laughed. “I was mainly on the pitch to help.”
Upon returning to Owensboro, Ballard found employment with the Owensboro Police Department in January 1989, as a field training officer. He spent five years in the crime scene evidence unit – working on cases ranging from robberies to homicides. While at the OPD, he was commander of the bomb squad.
Ballard retired from OPD in August 2009 and worked with the family excavation and utility company, RA Alexander & Sons, Inc., where he worked often throughout his life and started to work there full-time from Monday after his retirement.
“When you’re in law enforcement, your head is spinning and you’re thinking 24 hours a day,” Ballard said. “You are on call for what the public needs. … It’s a different (type) of thinking.
However, Ballard remained involved with Fraternal Order of Police Owensboro Lodge #16 during his retirement from the OPD, which, along with his memories, prompted him to reconsider.
“Outside of the military, there’s no job that carries the camaraderie of law enforcement, like taking care of each other,” Ballard said. “I just missed it, to be honest. I missed working with the public. One of the greatest joys you’ve ever had as a police officer is when a little kid walks up and hands you a stuffed animal or something and says “thank you.” There is nothing that compares to this feeling.
Ballard decided to return to law enforcement in 2012, working at the Daviess County Detention Center for about nine months before becoming a deputy in McLean County in 2013.
Ballard knew McLean County Sheriff Frank Cox, having worked with him on several occasions, and thought it was a good place to restart his career.
He started as a road deputy working night shifts as he also became county evidence room manager.
When Sheriff Kenneth Frizzell won the 2014 election, Ballard was promoted to sergeant, where he was in charge of planning and training before being promoted to lieutenant, making him the third in charge of the staff.
“I was very lucky that the sheriffs respected my work and promoted me accordingly,” Ballard said.
While Ballard said being there for the public was key in both counties, he said McLean County was different because it’s more agriculture-based, which was a change in terms of population than he served before.
However, Ballard only recalls positive experiences during his past nine years.
“The people of McLean County are friendly; it is a good riding; there are good people out there,” Ballard said. “I had friends that I’ve known all my life who lived in McLean County, so when I went to work in McLean County, I kind of had my foot in the door. McLean County sort of integrated me.
Now returning to a more 9-to-5 role with the family business, Ballard said he would miss the personal relationships he would regularly build on his patrols.
“Being there for nine years, I was watching some of the families that now had kids and watching their kids grow up,” Ballard said. “The audience interaction, (especially) those good audience interactions – they just give you a good feeling knowing that you helped somebody and you did something to help somebody. It gives you a really good feeling, and it’s hard to replace that in any other area.