What may be most surprising about the story of Addison County Sheriff James Coons is that he did so much, so quietly.
Outside of those in the justice or law enforcement community, who would know that over the past years as sheriff, he built the department from a one-man force with a few part-timers and only the vehicle he owned personally, to a force a dozen or so vehicles and more than 28 full- and part-time employees. Unless you have been in the county jail and remember what it was back it in the mid-’80s, who would have known that it’s been wholly transformed into a modern facility with numerous cells, and offices with state-of-the-art security measures and equipment.
More communities know that he has spread the arms of the sheriff’s department into rural towns throughout the county — all at the request of towns seeking police support they could not otherwise afford. But, perhaps, they didn’t know that the help was provided through the magic of making dimes out of pennies — with Coons working miracles with budgets and funding he could stretch to provide the sheriff’s coverage at rates towns could afford.
Over a period of 30 years, he did all this with very little fanfare. He saw challenges and needs, and responded as effectively and efficiently as he could; a rare public servant, indeed.
That he was fun-loving, a guitar-playing member of a band, a father, husband and friend of many, and widely respected in his field all makes perfect sense in light of his extremely competent and humble tenure as sheriff. He died this week of cancer far too early, but we’ll all appreciate his contributions to the county for many years to come.