Grady Hartman has always been one to establish personal goals, and becoming Oneida County’s sheriff a couple of weeks ago was one he set his mind on when he first got into law enforcement. “I always had my eye on becoming a sheriff,” he said.
However, pursuing a career in law enforcement was not a factor when Grady enrolled at UW-River Falls after graduating from Rhinelander High School in 1992. In fact, at that time there was no one in his family that had any experience in law enforcement including his dad, Dan, or mother, Lucy. “I thought I would like to go into business,” he said. “So I majored in business administration.”
But during his college days Grady made a friend who was in law enforcement. The stories he told intrigued Grady enough to arrange ride-along sessions with local police officers. “Tony Paris was really good about letting me do ride-alongs,” he said. “I would go on them during my breaks and in the summer time, too.”
At one point, he thought about dropping out of college to pursue a career in law enforcement but his former high school football coach and teacher Bill Makris advised him to finish out his degree. “That was good advice,” said Grady. “I’m glad I followed it.”
After college, Grady enrolled in a 400-hour course to become a police officer. He was then hired for a short time in River Falls and then in Baraboo. But his goal was to get back to Rhinelander and that was fulfilled when in 1997 he was hired by the Rhinelander Police Department. “I was glad to be back home,” he said.
Grady worked diligently and eventually was hired by Oneida County as a deputy in 1999, advancing steadily to become a SWAT team leader and patrol sergeant. Then, when former Sheriff Jeff Hoffman decided to retire late last year, Grady immediately applied for the position. “I never would have run against Jeff,” he said. “I have always admired the job he did as sheriff of Oneida County.” Grady was chosen by Governor Scott Walker out of a field of 16 applicants.
And while Grady has been steadily achieving his goals over the years, his family has also been flourishing. Grady married his wife Tracy in 1996 and today they are proud parents of seven children, Payton, 14; Walker, 10; Reagan, 8; Kyleah, 6; Isabel, 5 and three-year-old twins, Marisa and Olivia. “Yeah things at my house are pretty lively,” he said with a laugh. “There’s never a dull moment.”
Being hired as Oneida County’s sheriff has required some sacrifices though, and last week this industrious and congenial man stepped down from two positions he was proud to be holding. One was as a supervisor on the Crescent Town Board. He was also a member of the Rhinelander School board. “With my children, I have a ton invested in the schools here,” he said. “But I joined those boards to learn more about budgets and to become more involved in the community.” It was with regret that he resigned from both these posts to concentrate on his new position.
And while he learns the ins and outs of being a sheriff, Grady will still find time to be involved in the community, especially when his kids are involved. In fact, his two oldest youngsters are award-winning wrestlers and he serves as the president of the Rhinelander Wrestling Club, as well as being involved in the local Pop Warner football program.
And as far as what’s in store in the days and weeks ahead, Grady has some ideas, but he wants to concentrate on getting a firm idea of what being sheriff is all about first. “I’ve got a great support staff here,” he said. “People like Chief Deputy John Sweeney have been showing me the ropes and transitioning me into the position. I know there’ll be some changes ahead if we merge with emergency management, which has been talked about for quite some time. And I have other ideas as well, but I don’t make rash decisions. I like to research and study changes to make sure they are in the best interest of everyone involved.”
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