Mack Taylor has spent two-thirds of his lifetime working in the field of law enforcement, but the four-term sheriff says he’s having no second thoughts about walking away from his career later this month.
Taylor, 54, will formally retire as Mills County Sheriff on Dec. 31.
“I have no regrets about retiring,” Taylor said during an interview last week “Had I gone one more term, I would’ve beat the record for being the longest-serving sheriff in Mills County (Bill DeMoss served 19 years), but it never has been about records or anything like that.
“Including my military time, I’ve spent 36 years in corrections or law enforcement, but on the other hand, I’m ready to get out there and see what the private sector is all about.”
Taylor announced his retirement last winter and quickly secured a new job with Omaha-based Morrow & Associates, a human resource consulting firm that specializes in personnel management and labor relations for governmental agencies, non-profits and private companies. He expects to do some recruiting of new clients and assist with testing for applicants seeking law enforcement positions.
“I’m going to specialize in whatever they tell me to do,” Taylor said.
Taylor, a Mills County native and graduate of Nishna Valley High School, began his crime-fighting career as a law enforcement specialist in the U.S. Air Force. After receiving an honorable discharge, he returned to Mills County where he was hired as a deputy with the sheriff’s office, a job he held for 12 years until accepting a position in Council Bluffs with the Fourth Judicial District.
In 1992, Taylor made the decision to run for sheriff in Mills County against incumbent Howard Clark. Taylor defeated Clark in the Republican primary and then faced a rematch in the general election when Clark ran as a candidate by petition. Both elections were hotly contested.
“I really thought the first time I ran, it was going to be hot, but I hoped that if I won the primary it would be over, but that didn’t happen,” Taylor said.
When Taylor took office in January 1993, one of his first tasks was to defuse some of the tension and division that existed within the sheriff’s office. Many deputies and sheriff’s office employees were loyal and outspoken supporters of Clark during the election process.
“I think there were some people here that didn’t necessarily have my best interest at heart – some people in the department and some people in the community,” Taylor said. “I just felt like my main goal, first off, was to show the people that did support me that their support was not misguided. Then, the people who did not support me, hopefully bring them around and show them that my election wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened.
“I never begrudged anybody supporting somebody else who ran against me. An election is like a horse race, you’ve got to pick whoever you think is going to do the job you want them to do.”
Taylor made it through his first term as sheriff with a focus on making his office “user-friendly’ to the general public.
Running as an incumbent, Taylor faced opposition from Clark and deputy Clifford Stegall in the 1996 election cycle, which once again turned out to be hard-fought race. Taylor prevailed and moved on to his second term. He would face no competition in his 2000 and 2004 re-election bids.
He’s been involved in dozens of cases and difficult situations over the past 16 years, but some have had a stronger impact on Taylor than others.
During his first year in office, two Mills County teenagers died from injuries that resulted from a late-night collision with a patrol car being driven by one of Taylor’s deputies. The deputy was responding to a call on the eastern side of the county when the collision occurred.
“To be honest with you, that took some wind out of my sails,” Taylor said.
Taylor was also hit hard by the 1997 death of Gilbert Androy, his friend and former chief deputy who died from injuries he sustained while answering a domestic disturbance call for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.
A few years later, Deputy Stegall would lose a lengthy battle with cancer.
“Cliff had worked diligently over the years,” Taylor said. “I remember when I delivered his eulogy, I really felt that when he got into law enforcement he thought that if he worked hard enough and long enough, he was going to totally eradicate crime. Of course, that wasn’t about to happen, but Clifford was a bulldog when it came to going out and sniffing out some of these crimes.
“You hate to see somebody you’ve worked with for so many years, deteriorate physically like he did. He’s definitely one of those people you’re going to remember forever.”
During the past 16 years, the Mills County Sheriff’s Office has been involved in some high-profile cases and investigations.
Taylor said his entire office was affected by a 2002 shooting incident that occurred in Glenwood. A 20-year-old Glenwood man, Drew Young, opened fire with an assault rifle on deputy Eugene Goos and Glenwood police officer Gary Chambers as they responded to an early-morning disturbance call in the Glenbrook neighborhood. Goos was struck in the shoulder and thumb as the shooter peppered the windshield of his vehicle. Goos survived the ambush and recovered from his injuries. On Jan. 1, Goos will step up to replace Taylor as sheriff.
“The shooting where Gene got shot affected the whole department,” Taylor said. “I’ve said all along that it bothered most of us more than it bothered Gene.”
Four years ago this month, a rural Glenwood resident, Brett Pace, was fatally shot at his residence during a raid by law enforcement officers. Pace was shot by a Council Bluffs police officer, but the raid involved officers from multiple law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s office. A grand jury later determined that the shooting was justified.
“I felt all along as I knew it that it was going to be a justified shooting, but I don’t want the family to think that we didn’t have concerns for him (Pace) or them,” Taylor said. You hate to have that happen to one of your local citizens or the family of one of your local citizens.”
Looking back, Taylor can take satisfaction out of knowing that the sheriff’s office has been successful on many fronts over the past 16 years despite limited resources and a growing county population. During Taylor’s tenure, the sheriff’s office has made strides in community relations, has been proactive in slowing down methamphetamine production and consumption and has surpassed one of Taylor’s initial goals of becoming a “user friendly” office.
On Dec. 31, he walks away feeling good about his four terms in office and the direction the Mills County Sheriff’s Office is headed.
“I’ve made my mistakes over the years, but probably the thing I’m the proudest of is that I hired well and promoted well,” Taylor said. “You can see that by the caliber of people we have at the sheriff’s office, an office that I’d stack up against anybody’s. The deputies, office staff and jailers, as far as I’m concerned, are all top quality people. They’re people who over the years I’ve considered not only co-workers, but friends.”
Taylor said there’s no doubt in his mind that Goos will succeed as his successor.
“We didn’t have an incumbent running for office so this is probably the smoothest transition we’ve had sheriff-wise in Mills County in probably a half century,” Taylor said. “I believe getting new blood in there occasionally is a good thing and I think Eugene’s going to bring some good new ideas. I have been able to handle it for 16 years and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be able to handle it. He might be the one that breaks the record.”
Taylor added that he’s grateful to the citizens of Mills County for giving him the opportunity to serve as sheriff for four terms and appreciative of the support he’s received along the way.
“I was very proud to become a deputy for Mills County and it’s been an absolute honor to be sheriff,” Taylor said. “It’s a very good public out there, very supportive. We lose sight of that sometimes because a lot of times a small percentage of the people out there may not approve of some of the things we do for one reason or another, but the vast majority, the silent majority, does. We need to remember the silent majority and probably appreciate them more than we do.”
Taylor and his wife Renate will continue to reside in Mills County after his retirement from the sheriff’s office.