Madison County Sheriff Katy McCutcheon

Sheriff Finds Her Calling

By Nancy Zoellner-Hogland

Katy McCutcheon, sheriff of Madison County, wishes she could say she got into law enforcement because it was a family tradition or because it was something that she grew up dreaming about.

But she can’t.

“I was born and raised in Oklahoma and grew up on a farm, loving animals and dreaming about becoming a veterinarian. I realized that dream was not going to be a reality when I started helping out at the demonstration farm at Southeast Missouri State University. I quickly learned what being a veterinarian was all about — and it wasn’t for me! Not to mention that I hated school,” she laughed.

She said she was interested in the forensic science field, but not interested enough to go to medical school, so she decided to drop out of college after changing her major seven times in two years. She took a full-time position at the Fredericktown Walmart Pharmacy where she had been employed part-time since 1998. Then when CSI: Crime Scene Investigation premiered in 2000 and she realized she could use forensic science in law enforcement, she knew where her life was headed — or so she thought. Her brother was working as a deputy at the Ste. Genevieve Sheriff’s Office and enjoying it, so she enrolled in the Mineral Area College in Park Hills Law Enforcement Program. Although she still didn’t enjoy school, she enjoyed what she was learning. After graduating in 2001, she took a job with the Fredericktown Police Department.

She stayed until 2005 when she went to work for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office as a road deputy. During that time, she also returned to college and finished her bachelor’s degree, took a part-time job at Follis and Sons Funeral Home and obtained both Missouri Funeral Directors and Missouri Embalmers licenses. She continues to help out there on an as-needed basis. In 2013, she left the sheriff’s office to take a job as director of the Madison County 911 Communications Center. At the same time, she also obtained an advanced mortuary degree from the Des Moines Area Community College, necessary because she was also serving as Madison County deputy coroner — and still does.

“Towards the end of 2015, when the voters of Madison County were talking about electing a new sheriff, I had several people ask me to run. I had the same answer every time — I had no intentions of running because I had a great job at the funeral home and planned to stay until I retired,” she said. “I also didn’t think Madison County was ready for a female sheriff! However, after a series of unfortunate events that involved the coroner’s office and the two individuals vying for sheriff, I decided to throw my name in the hat. I didn’t have a clue that I’d win the August Primary let alone win by a landslide in the general election in November.”

She was sworn in as sheriff on January 1, 2017, surrounded by her loyal supporters — her family and friends.

Being responsive to the complaints she heard during her campaign, she filled open deputy positions with deputies who lived in Madison County and who were familiar with the county and its residents. Then she changed scheduling to allow them to have every other weekend off. She replaced the BDU pants and shirts they had been wearing with the traditional — and more professional-looking — brown-with-tan uniforms and she implemented new guidelines for facial hair.

When she took office she found issues with the department’s fleet. Of 11 patrol vehicles only three were fully functioning. With the assistance of the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund she purchased three new patrol vehicles outright to replace worn out Crown Vics that would have cost more to fix than they were worth. She also traded in three Dodge Chargers to purchase three Ford Explorers, which were more practical on the county’s numerous gravel roads.

To address issues in the jail, Sheriff McCutcheon appointed a jail administrator and made changes in staff, policy and procedures and how commissary items were issued.

“We’ve had a few bad days but overall I think things are going great. I’ve faced a few challenges — one of which is supervising people who used to be co-workers — and I had a couple surprises when I took office, the biggest of which was all the paperwork. Oh, my goodness! You almost have to have a degree in business management,” she quipped. “But just when you’re ready to throw your hands into the air, someone comes up to you and tells you what a good job you’re doing and how much they appreciate you and your deputies. To me, that’s the most rewarding part of my job. Why I chose two professions where I’d be meeting people on the worst day of their life, I don’t know. But I do know I have a personality that allows me to make people feel more comfortable, so with that in mind, the only career goal I have at this time is to serve the residents of Madison County as their sheriff as long as they’ll allow me to.”