Barry Thomas cried a little and Nicholas Lennie cried a little, as Thomas said his goodbyes to the Story County Sheriff’s office, and Lennie accepted the torch to carry on in his longtime captain’s absence. And, Thomas made it clear. There is a pre-requisite for being chief deputy of the Story County Sheriff’s Office. “You have to be a cry baby.”
The two often emotional men were front and center for a ceremony that celebrated both men’s service. It was held last Friday morning in the Story County Sheriff’s Office squad room, which was packed with fellow Story County co-workers, family members and friends.
Thomas started in what was the county’s Community Life Services office back in 1991. He was hired by the sheriff’s office in February of 1992, starting in the jail division, where all new hires started at that time. He moved to patrol in 1997, eventually became a member of the ERT and dive teams of the office, and was promoted to sergeant on Jan. 3, 2000.
Thomas attended the FBI Academy in 2005 and became a lieutenant in 2006. He served as a lieutenant just 14 days before being promoted to captain.
Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald commended Thomas on his pursuits, noting that he was an accomplished runner, having done 13 marathons so far in a pursuit to be healthier. Fitzgerald also mentioned that, along those lines, Thomas was instrumental in helping develop the National Officers’ Safety and Wellness Program.
Thomas served the position of chief deputy of the office well by being involved in a number of organizations, both locally and nationally. Some of his involvements included being on the board of ACCESS, P3 Campus Program and Crime Stoppers. Thomas is past president of the FBI National Academy Association.
In presenting Thomas his retirement plaque, Fitzgerald commented, “Everything that Barry has here… he worked hard for; he’s earned everything that he’s gotten.”
Thomas introduced a number of family members who were present, and then thanked his family and also professed his strong faith in Jesus Christ. “If you don’t have a good family structure, it’s hard to get through,” he said.
Thomas also spoke about the scrutiny that law enforcement has come under in recent years, and noted that in his experience, “99 percent of the people who do this job, do it because they want to make a difference… If you see a police officer, just tell them thanks.”
Former Story County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Stark was in attendance and was thanked by Thomas for being there. Thomas said he owes thanks to Stark’s father, former longtime sheriff John Stark, for hiring him and giving him the opportunity to serve. Others recognized and thanked by Thomas included fellow co-workers, government officials and even the fire chief of Ames, who had come for the ceremony.
The last of his thank-yous went to Sheriff Fitzgerald, who he said he loved. “Nobody has a better head for law enforcement,” he said of his boss.
In handing off the chief deputy’s position to Lennie, Thomas said, “The people of Story County are in good hands.”
Fitzgerald shared that he hired Lennie on July 20, 2008, and promoted him to sergeant in 2013.
Lennie has been president of the Crime Prevention Board in Story County and the state. He has been a team leader for both ERT and firearms, and according to Fitzgerald has improved the training in both of those programs.
Lennie also helped implement ALICE active shooter training in the county and for churches, businesses and offices around the state; and he worked with Thomas on implementing the P3 Campus Program.
“You can see an individual that comes up … and is a natural born leader,” Fitzgerald commented. “I’ve been so lucky to have this quality throughout Story County Sheriff’s Office, where we have so many of these (leaders).”
Lennie was promoted to lieutenant on Jan. 6 of this year, and like Thomas, has taken a quick path to captain, which he has just been elevated to as he assumes the role of chief deputy.
Lennie’s wife, Amy, and daughter, Emma, were on hand to witness him being sworn in as chief deputy, and Amy helped pin on his new uniform bars.
After the pinning, Lennie spoke for a few moments, saying that the last 13 years have been a roller coaster. Like Thomas, he spoke about the frustration during some of this time, seeing law enforcement being vilified. He feels that is changing now.
Like Thomas, he thanked those in the office, including his supervisors and staff. “I’ve always felt fortunate to be part of the team here in Story County. I’m honored and humbled to be in this role,” Lennie said.