WAPAKONETA —“Have you ever seen a sheriff cry so much?”
Al Solomon poked a little fun at himself while attempting to choke back tears — not always successfully — during a 10-minute press conference Friday, during which he announced he will not seek a fifth term as Auglaize County’s sheriff.
It wasn’t a decision that came easily, Solomon said.
“Four years ago I made the decision to run again because of the love I still had for serving the people of this county. I still love this job. I love these people (employees) here, and I still love serving the public. This is my life,” Solomon said.
“But I’ve talked with people who are important to me, and after 40 years at this office and 16 years as sheriff I’ve decided not to seek a fifth term,” he said. “I’ve wrestled with this for a very long time and, a lot of things come into play in making this decision. I’ve considered my health, my age — I would be 67 at the end of another term — and the time I can spend with my family and my grandkids.”
Solomon was sworn into office on Dec. 22, 2004, for his first term after easily defeating former Cridersville Police Chief John Drake in the November general election that year. Solomon succeeded Larry Longsworth, his friend and mentor who had been Auglaize County’s sheriff for the preceding 16 years.
Longsworth, who Solomon referred to during Friday’s press conference as “The Boss,” opted to retire after his fourth term and lost his battle with cancer in June 2010 at age 62, some seven years after leaving office.
Solomon thanked retired Chief Deputy Jim Wachauf, Janice Longsworth, the sheriff’s widow, and her family and all the employees of the sheriff’s office for their support throughout the years.
“And thanks to my wife, Leslie, for her unwavering support and love. Leslie, I love you with all my heart,” the sheriff said.
Solomon joined the sheriff’s department as a deputy under former Sheriff James Knoch. It was advice given to him by Knoch that will keep Solomon in office for the final year of his term.
“Jim said that if the people elected you to serve four years … you serve four years,” Solomon recalled.
He will also honor his commitment to the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, for which he serves as second vice president.
He will not be a candidate on the 2020 election ballot and will not comment at any point during next year’s elections, Solomon said. He said he will support whoever comes out on top at the ballot box.
Among those in attendance at Friday’s event was Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey.
“Al and I have known each other since the mid-80s,” Grey said.”We’ve been close, and I hate to see him go.”
Grey also joked about their political persuasions.
“I’m a Republican, and he’s a Democrat. A lot of politicians could take a lesson from us on how to work together,” Grey said.