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Public servant looking back with ‘pride and satisfaction’

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At the end of last year, Rob Kittle was wearing a lot of hats.

He was administrative captain for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and a County Council member.

And he was one of five GOP candidates in the primary running to succeed Sheriff Mark Gorbett.

By the end of this year, all of those hats will have been taken off.

Kittle, 55, will end his 29-year career in local law enforcement when he retires today from the sheriff’s department.

Beginning in 1982, Kittle spent almost 14 years with the Columbus Police Department. After taking a few years off from law enforcement, he was hired by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department in 1998.

“It’s been a great career, and I look back on it with a great sense of pride and satisfaction,” Kittle said.

Kittle’s retirement comes five months after he ended a campaign he began last July to become the next Bartholomew County sheriff. Citing personal and professional reasons, he pulled out of the five-candidate race for the GOP nomination in January.

Gorbett said Kittle left his mark on the sheriff’s department in a number of ways that include:

Maintaining stringent training standards for all deputies.

Insisting on a high degree of professionalism during officer recruitment efforts.

Leading the initiative to arm deputies with nonlethal stun guns.

Establishing the county’s sex offender registry.

“The only thing I’m not happy about in regard to Rob Kittle is that he’s going out quicker than me,” Gorbett said.

Because of term limits, Gorbett will step down as sheriff at the end of December.

Saying he is retiring now to enjoy the summer weather, Kittle said he had been considering several factors about his future for several months.

“To say the option of retirement was not part of my decision to not run for sheriff would be inaccurate,” Kittle said. “But I don’t look back on anything with any large regrets.”

Kittle said he wants to spend time with his family while he still can. He also described law enforcement as a young person’s game.

“My sense is that the job (of an officer) is probably more dangerous now than it was when I began my career in 1982,” Kittle said. “Narcotics and the presence of firearms play a role in that.”

Gorbett said he empathized with Kittle’s decision to retire.

“In this profession, you reach this crossroads in life where you just know it’s time to get out,” Gorbett said. “This job takes such a toll, not only on the officer but on the entire family. Most people don’t understand, but you’ve got to get out and decompress, so you are not seeing the bad things in life every day.”

Kittle said he will wait until fall to seek new employment. He has experience in home remodeling and real estate.

He said he plans to take his first few months of retirement to travel with his wife, JoAnna, as well as complete some projects.

In December, Kittle’s final hat will be cast off when he leaves the County Council after December’s meeting.

He described the experience of being a high-ranking deputy who also sits on the county’s governing fiscal body as “a unique relationship.”

He and Gorbett had an understanding four years ago that Kittle was elected to represent his constituents and not to advocate for the sheriff’s department, Kittle said.

“We maintained a mutual respect, because we both know each other’s role in the process,” Gorbett said. “We had good conversations because we were able to provide one another with a different perspective.”

There were a few times when the two did not see eye-to-eye on issues before the council, but those disagreements never resulted in a professional or personal problem, they said.

Kittle said he has recused himself from discussions and votes on council matters that affected sheriff’s department employees financially.

“A willingness to respect a different opinion or perspective is how government is supposed to work,” Kittle said. “Sometimes, it’s messy. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. But at the end of the day, it generally works.”

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