FOREST — Since he was a child, Don Southward wanted to be a police officer.
Even while he was working full-time in a factory, the Forest native would leave his job and put in another eight-hour shift in a policeman’s uniform in order to keep his hopes alive.
The dedication and long hours paid off last week when Southward was named the chief of the Forest Police Department. He is now in his second week at the department’s leader.
“Even as a kid, I wanted to be in law enforcement, “ said Southward. “As an officer, there is something new all the time and I also enjoyed being a part of the town I grew up in. I like working for the Forest community.”
Southward worked as a supervisor at the M-tec plant in Upper Sandusky for more than 13 years. In 2003, when he was done with his job, Southward attended classes at a police academy before being hired as an auxiliary policeman at Carey for a year. When an opening for a part-time officer opened in Forest, he applied and earned the spot. In recent months, he has worked at the Ada Police Department.
“I put in a lot of hours over the years,” Southward said. “It was hard at times to get a day off between both jobs.”
With a wife and two children at home, Southward decided the time was right for him to make the career jump when Chief Shawn Taylor announced he was resigning at the Forest department. Southward put his name into consideration and was approved by council. The decision allowed him to resign from M-tec and not only free up more time with his family, but to work at a job he really enjoys.
“I had stayed in law enforcement so I could continue on in hopes something would come around,” he said. “I like the whole aspect of the job and I enjoy giving a helping hand to the public and society.”
There won’t be drastic changes within the Forest department under Southward’s leadership, he said. His first week on the job has involved getting acquainted with how things worked under Taylor and deciding how he can organize things to reach his personal comfort zone.
“I know how things run here. I’ve been here quite a while,” said Southward. “I want to bring the officers on board and make the department user friendly.”
He said he will also be working on security measures for the village in the near future.
“Things will be different for me,” he said. “I’ll have more time with my wife and two kids and that’s good for me. I won’t be working 60-plus hours a week. That is a big change.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer