Thomas Jefferson, in his work called, “the Value of Constitution,” wrote, “The Office of the Sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the country.”
The Office of Sheriff is certainly significant, and was in fact, the first county office established in the United States. Some outstanding Americans who held the office of Sheriff were George Washington’s father in Colonial Virginia and John Nixon, Sheriff in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who was the first person to read the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Until Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, the position of Sheriff was filled through appointment by the Colonial Governor. The first Sheriff on record in Ohio was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat who was appointed in 1788. After statehood became a reality, only three public offices in Ohio were filled through the electoral process- the position of Sheriff was one of them. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected Sheriff in the Buckeye State. By virtue of this process, this office has become the oldest law enforcement office which is filled through the election method. The term of office for county Sheriffs in Ohio is four years.
Within Ohio, Sheriff’s Offices have probably one of the most extensive sets of responsibilities to those they serve. By statute they must provide the following:
- Law Enforcement
- Court Security and Service of Papers
- Jail Operations
- Extradition Process
- Transportation of Prisoners
In 1810, Jonathan Harlan became the first Sheriff of Clinton County. Forty-five Sheriffs have assumed the office.