Needham works for today, plans for the future
By Tim Timmons
Over the years, Montgomery County has been blessed with some fine sheriffs. I’m not going to name names simply because I don’t want to leave anyone out, but the good ones seem to have far outweighed the . . . not so good.
Ryan Needham certainly fits into the good category. Needham grew up in New Ross and graduated from Southmont in 1993. He went to Ball State, but came back home when former Sheriff Dennis Rice offered him a job. He left the department in 2002 and went to work at Purdue University. He found his way back and went from being a patrol sergeant to chief deputy. He is married to Kelly and they have 16-year-old Landon and 10-year-old Emily at home. Recently, the 46-year-old Southmont graduate was kind enough to sit down with a reporter and talk a little about his time in the job, how things are going and about the future.
The Paper: You’ve been in this job for a couple of years, and before that you were the chief deputy. What do you enjoy about it?
Sheriff Needham: Watching the staff grow is a big one for me. I get to watch inexperienced deputies become experienced deputies. That’s always good to see. My overall and ultimate goal is for everybody to go home safely at the end of each shift. Getting out and talking to people at the fish fries and festivals is fun. You know, just making a difference. That’s the best part. You get to see that you made a difference in somebody’s life. Sometimes you are in a position where they are at their lowest and you can sometimes bring peace and comfort to them.
TP: How’s the department doing and what’s the future look like?
SN: It’s a challenge. You need to stay within the budget, and still find ways to plan for the growth (Tempur Sealy, for example). You know, it’s kind of like COVID. You can’t plan for that. So you work within the budget and do the best you can. Technology plays a large role. Two years ago we outfitted our guys with body cams and car cameras. It’s helpful, and it’s a deterrent. But it’s expensive.
We have several programs going that are working well, and we hope to start firearm safety classes back up in the spring. The JCAP (Jail Chemical Addiction Program) is successful. Inmates walk out of here with jobs if they want to. We still do work release. We have to get the right inmate with the right charges in the right spot. It’s hard to do, but we work at it. JCAP is working. Other programs are working. We are changing lives.
TP: In Indiana, Sheriffs are limited to two terms. You are in your first. What’s your plan for a second term?
SN: I’m going to run again. I think we’ve accomplished a lot. We have great people. We live in a great community. Even when things were bad nationally, things were good here. I would say I learned from one of the best (former Sheriff Mark Casteel). We’re not perfect, but I think we’re making progress. I’d like to continue what we started. I think it’s important to continue to maintain the relationships with the department heads, with the (county) council and commissioners. I’m not the smartest and I’m not the best at everything. But we are going to do the right thing. I don’t know it all, but I think just being a decent human being gets you places. That’s a lesson I learned from my parents and I haven’t forgotten it.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.