LAPORTE — He’s practically the face of the LaPorte County Sheriff’s office.
Capt. Mike Kellems is retiring after 31 years on the department to become head of security for the Duneland School Corporation.
"I’m going out I think at the top of my game," said Kellems.
Throughout his career, Kellems occasionally found himself in the media spotlight as a source of information on pipe bombings, a plane crash and other local law enforcement happenings. He became even more of a familiar figure on TV, radio and in print, though, when named the department’s public information officer three years ago.
Kellems said he never sought the limelight, but did enjoy the job and always made sure to give others the credit. He also made it a point to educate the public on what emergency responders go through in his interviews with the press.
Kellems first got his feet wet at 15 when he joined the LaPorte County Police cadet program. At 19, he was officially deputized.
One of his first major assignments was going undercover in a drug investigation. After receiving a degree in criminal justice from Vincennes University, he joined the department full time.
He went on to hold every position except sheriff, chief deputy and major.
Kellems, a former volunteer firefighter, has practically done and seen it all but what really stands out to him about his time in public service is mentoring and working with youth. About a half dozen of the kids he came into contact with are now police officers.
"I’m very proud of the career I’ve had, but along the way I’ve had the opportunity to make some impacts on other people outside of law enforcement," Kellems said.
Kellems is not going into his new job totally blind. He’s been going to Chesterton the past several weeks learning the ropes of his new position and is supervisor for all of the sheriff’s department officers working full time in the schools. He’s also a former instructor for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and served four years on the LaPorte School Board.
In his new position, Kellems said his goals include developing an emergency response plan in the event of a train derailment or semi-truck accident involving toxic chemicals with heavy freight and major highway traffic so close to several of the Chesterton schools.
"Those are just a few of the things I will be involved in," Kellems said.
Despite being so devoted to police work, Kellems said he hasn’t become emotional yet but expects to when he reports for duty one last time Tuesday.
"I’m sure that’s going to be tough knowing I’ll never again be in a police car. I’ll never again have my uniform on. You can’t help but be emotional. It’s been my entire life," Kellems said.