McDonald County Sheriff Mike Hall

Sheriff Impacts Community

By Nancy Zoellner-Hogland

Keeping children safe, teaching them the dangers of experimenting with alcohol and drugs, showing them that law enforcement is there to protect them — those are all things near and dear to McDonald County Sheriff Mike Hall’s heart.

That’s why he’s spent the majority of his law enforcement career working in the schools in one capacity or another. In fact, this year he’s celebrating his 20th year teaching DARE.

“And it’s still my favorite part of the job. I get reenergized when I walk into the classroom, in part, because I believe this program can positively impact our community. Our nation has a drug problem. The best way to stop it is to never start. That’s what I’m teaching these students,” Sheriff Hall said.

Although he’s dedicated his life to serving his community, that dedication initially took a different course.

“I got my EMT license for both Arkansas and Missouri during my senior year of high school and started working for a local ambulance service after graduation. However, as I got to know law enforcement, I knew that was where I should be so when I signed up for college, I decided to major in criminal justice,” he said.

At the same time, he also started volunteering at the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, assisting with dispatch and the jail. When Sheriff Don Schlessman offered him a job in that division six months later, he jumped at the opportunity, and the next semester enrolled in the law enforcement academy.

“Talk about timing! In April 1997 I turned 21. I graduated from the academy in May and in June an overnight road deputy position opened and the sheriff offered it to me. I figured it had to be God’s plan because it all came together in a matter of months. It certainly turned out to be an eye-opening experience,” he laughed. “To go from dispatch to the classroom to working nights where everything happens — especially as a 21-year-old kid — wow!”

He continued working overnights until early 1999 when a school resource officer position opened in the McDonald County R-1 School District. He asked for it and the sheriff agreed that he would be a good fit. For the next couple years, he covered one high school and seven elementary and junior high campuses.

“At the time I was talking to an Arkansas police officer whose child had been killed in the Jonesboro school shooting about developing training for the schools. Then in April of that year, two teenagers went on a shooting spree at Columbine and everything changed. Suddenly we were forced to think about the unthinkable and began training, sometimes with city police officers, deputies, other law enforcement, along with fire and EMS, on how to respond to an active shooter in our schools,” he said.

Because he wanted to do more, in 2000 he attended DARE instructor training. A couple years later he was promoted to corporal and then in 2005, when another resource officer was hired, he was put in charge of patrol operations. However, he continued to oversee school training, attend as many school events as possible and teach the DARE program.

In early 2012, he left the sheriff’s office to work fulltime at the schools while also campaigning for sheriff. He was elected and took office January 1, 2013.

Conservative budgeting and careful spending through the years by the county’s officeholders allowed McDonald County to save enough money to recently double the size of the jail and add a kitchen as well as office space for the deputies — without increasing taxes.

“My next goal is to add more staff, especially in the jail, because although our holding capabilities went from 32 to 64, we have the same number of people working in the jail,” Sheriff Hall said, adding that as a third-class county surrounded by counties with larger, more robust economies, trying to attract and then keep good, qualified personnel has been his biggest challenge.

He and his staff have also been busy implementing jail standards, creating a policy and procedures manual and updating operations by switching to an electronic jail management system which allows them to share information with other jails in real time. With help from his lieutenant, Sheriff Hall established a Special Response Team and provided special training to handle such things as high-risk search warrants. He also accomplished his short-term goal of acquiring new bullet-proof vests for all road deputies and vests that are less than the suggested five years old for detectives.

Sheriff Hall’s care for children extends to wanting them to have presents at Christmas so in 2009, he and a few deputies started a Shop with a Cop program. It quickly grew to encompass all emergency responders and is now called “Shop with a Hero.” Thanks to a grant from Walmart and generous contributions from a supportive community, in 2019 they were able to raise $12,900 — enough to take 118 children shopping with around $100 each to spend.

His wife Kimberly and two children have also been supportive of his work and his choice of professions.

“My son actually loves law enforcement and wants to join the FBI when he graduates. My parents have always backed me in my choice to go into law enforcement — and both are avid scanner listeners! My dad, Gary, actually wanted to be a trooper when he was young but at the time, they had a height requirement and he was just a little too short. Instead, he went into farming and has raised cattle my whole life. When I retire, I plan to work the farm with him. I figure by then, I’ll be ready for the peace and quiet!”