Channahon Police Chief Jeff Wold will retire Friday after 22 years in law enforcement, a career he saw for himself when he was a teenager, but one that almost was thwarted by a misunderstanding.
“Someone told me you had to have 20/20 vision,” he said.
Wold did not have perfect vision. He believed the falsehood and went to Joliet Junior College after high school, then Northwestern University, graduating with a degree in management.
He got a good job in security, but the retired law enforcement officers he worked with kept telling him what a good police officer he would make. And Wold still had that desire.
He had grown up within the law enforcement community. His father was the police commissioner in Romeoville, and many family friends were officers.
In his late 20s, Wold went to an eye specialist who told him his vision was a minor problem and that he would qualify for a career in law enforcement.
In 1995, Wold fulfilled his dream by landing a job as a patrolman in the Channahon Police Department. He knew he had found his calling. His pay was cut by half, he remembers with a chuckle, but it was worth it.
Over the years, Wold advanced in the department from detective sergeant to deputy chief and finally, in 2011, to chief. He said he enjoyed each of the positions, including his current one.
“I really enjoy being a chief,” he said. “I’m able to play a much bigger role with the Village Board and with village staff. ... It’s been nice to have a say-so in how your community’s going to turn out.”
He’s particularly proud of the department’s community policing program, which puts officers in more direct contact with people. The program began with former Police Chief Steve Admonis, he said, and it has branched out over time.
Wold also has overseen changes in the department the public might not see, but have increased the department’s capabilities. Most recently, the department changed from analog to digital radios, a move Wold said was a major project.
A recent upgrade to Computer-Aided Dispatch also has made policing in Channahon significantly better, Wold said, and moving to an online police procedure system, Lexipol, has enabled officers to be more efficient.
“All three of these changes were more than a year in the making,” he said.
One of the things Wold has loved most about his job is the interaction with people in the community and on the staff. Those who work with him say they will miss him when he leaves.
“It will be sad to see him go,” Channahon Deputy Chief Adam Bogart said about Wold. “I owe so much of my success to him. He’s been my guide over my career, and he’s taught me a lot about the job. ... He’s extraordinarily calm and patient. He takes his time to think about different situations.”
Bogart said he’ll never forget one day when he worked with Wold on a theft case. It was 2009, and Wold was Bogart’s supervisor. They were following up on the theft of tires from a local auto dealer.
“The next morning, we identified a suspect,” Bogart said, “eventually served a search warrant and found the tires. The offender had thrown them over his neighbor’s fence. ... I hopped the fence to get the tires.
“The plan was I would throw them back over. Well, I didn’t look, yell or otherwise ensure no one was in the way of the tires as I threw them back over the fence. I gave the first tire a good heave and it came down right on top of Jeff. Great way to make an early impression on my new boss.”
Wold hasn’t forgotten his first investigation. It involved the burglary of a home. The guy had broken in and stolen money from a child’s piggybank, among other items. The burglar eventually was arrested and served time.
After being released on that offense, the burglar stole a large children’s crayon bank from a home in Plainfield. Witnesses saw him running down the street carrying the crayon bank, Wold said.
Wold said, of all the cases that the department solved while he was there, he will always regret two that weren’t solved. Both occurred in the year 2000. One was the murder of Michael Sarniak on the I&M Canal Trail. Sarniak, an outdoorsman, was out fishing when he was shot several times.
The other unsolved case involves Nicole Bowers, whose remains were found along Bungalow Road. The cause of death was likely blunt force trauma to the head, Wold said.
“It’s frustrating to work on these cases and know they’re still open,” he said. “We are still working on these two cases. ... We’re not content letting them sit on the shelf.”
Many other cases were solved, some immediately and others weeks or months later. When Founders Bank was robbed in 2006, Wold was on duty. The FBI usually handles bank robberies, but even after Wold was the Channahon officer who responded to the crime, he stayed with it.
The original FBI agent who oversaw the case retired before the suspect was found.
“I stayed in contact with the FBI agent involved,” Wold said. “I decided to continue to pursue it.”
Wold eventually located the vehicle used during the robbery and sent photos of the suspects to other police departments.
“A patrol officer in Villa Park recognized a picture of one of the suspects,” Wold said, “and we were able to put the case together.”
Both suspects ended up serving time for the Channahon bank robbery.
“Jeff has been not only an outstanding chief,” said Channahon Village President Missey Moorman Schumacher, “but a friend, too. He has always had just the right mix of professionalism and compassion. He goes well beyond his duties in caring for our community. As sad as I am to see him leave our department, I’m excited for whatever new endeavors Jeff pursues. No doubt, he’ll excel.”
Wold’s replacement as the new police chief will be current Channahon Deputy Chief Shane Casey, who Wold said will do an excellent job.
Wold said after retirement, he will pursue a second career – perhaps one where he might be able to use his law enforcement and management experience. He also hopes to spend more time with his wife, Sally, and daughter, Natalie, who is at college studying education.
Expect to see more of him in the band, Living Proof, in which he plays percussion. The band already has dates to play at the Croatian Club in Joliet on Jan. 5, March 17 and April 13.
The village will host a retirement party for Wold, open to the public, from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Channahon Village Hall.