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TIFFIN - With the way the economy has hurt county revenues, three-term Seneca County Sheriff Thomas Steyer admits it's not a bad time for him to be leaving.
Sheriff Steyer, who handed in his resignation Friday after accepting a job with the U.S. Foreign Service, said the budget woes are not his reason for making a move, "but I will tell you, it's a relief."
Seneca County commissioners have asked department heads to reduce their 2010 budget requests by 10 percent of their original 2009 budgets.
"I have to submit a budget for next year because I'm still sheriff, but as far as cuts … a lot of it will be up to the captain as far as how he wants to finalize the budget," the sheriff said. "I don't want to make these decisions for next year. It's not going to be my budget. It's not going to be my office."
Sheriff Steyer's resignation is effective Jan. 18. He has recommended that commissioners name his top command officer, Capt. William Eckelberry, sheriff. Ultimately, it will be the Seneca County Republican Central Committee that will choose a successor to be sheriff and serve until a new sheriff is elected in November, 2010.
A Tiffin native, Sheriff Steyer, 58, spent 21 years with the Medina, Ohio, Police Department before returning to Tiffin as police chief in 1996. In November, 2000, he defeated former Seneca Sheriff H. Weldin Neff and became the county's top law enforcement officer in January, 2001.
Sheriff Steyer said he started looking for another job early in 2008 after two candidates challenged him in the Republican primary for sheriff. He won election to his third term by a large margin, but he said he was intrigued by the idea of working with the U.S. Foreign Service.
"The more I read about it, the more I thought, 'This is very interesting,'•" he said. "I know I'll never have this opportunity again. One, I'm getting too old, and two, it's very competitive. I feel fortunate I've been able to go this far and been offered the position."
He said he will be working in human resources at an American Embassy, but he will not know where that will be until he completes his training in Arlington, Va., early next year. He and his wife, Romanian native Mihaela Adelaida Steyer, have a 5-year-old son, and the family loves to travel.
"I enjoy working with people from other countries," Sheriff Steyer said, referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees who are held by contract in Seneca County's jail. "I enjoy working there and listening to some of their cases."
Commissioner Dave Sauber said the sheriff will be missed.
"He's run a great department," Mr. Sauber said. "He brought millions of dollars back into the county's general fund through the ICE program to help offset our overall costs out there."
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