Two years ago, Douglas County voters elected one of their own to lead the sheriff’s office — 2002 Arcola High grad, licensed pilot and future full-time farmer JOSHUA BLACKWELL.
He joined his home county’s agency as a telecommunicator in 2006, days after earning his bachelor’s degree in aviation management at Southern Illinois, and has risen through the ranks — to deputy sheriff to sergeant deputy sheriff to the top job, after winning a four-way Republican primary in a landslide.
Blackwell, who doubles as the vice chairman of the seven-county East Central Illinois Mobile Law Enforcement Training Team, took time out to answer a few questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 21st installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting local leaders of organizations big and small.
The biggest business risk I ever took was ... deciding to start farming while working full time at the sheriff’s office. So far, it has paid off — I have been able to slowly purchase the equipment I need to eventually take on the profession full time when I retire from law enforcement.
My business role model is ... retired Gen. Colin Powell. Gen. Powell served our nation for more than half of his life, during numerous times of war, and ended that service as secretary of state. The man persevered through numerous hardships to become a great leader in this nation and I believe is an outstanding role model.
My philosophy on meetings is ... stick to the agenda. Oftentimes in this environment, people want to tell war stories and it takes up time that could be better utilized doing work.
The last luxury in which I indulged was ... a hot tub. I’ve found the older I get, the less my body bounces back from labor-intensive activity.
I’m frugal in that ... before I buy any item of significant value, I spend hours researching the product, the average cost and people’s review of the product to determine if it is worth the expenditure. Also, when purchasing an item through Amazon, I use the website camelcamelcamel.com to view historical pricing information before I buy to see how the current price point compares to previous prices to make sure I am getting the best price.
When it comes to the workplace, my one unbreakable rule is ... don’t make excuses, take ownership and move on.
The most beneficial college class I took was ... Fiscal Aspects in Aviation, taught at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. This class provided me with practical information that is used on a daily basis when it comes to running a business, as well as personal wealth. The instructor not only taught you how to create, manage and balance budgets, but also taught information about the stock market and how to better invest your money for your personal well being.
My single favorite moment of all time in this job is ... every moment when I get to help someone truly in need.
The hardest thing about being a leader is ... ensuring co-workers know you care about them even when you’re forced to make an operational decision that may negatively affect them. For example, changing someone’s work hours or days off to provide more adequate operational efficiency and effectiveness to achieve the goal at hand.
I can’t live without my ... iPhone. What other device in the world allows you to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time, while providing a platform to search any question that comes to mind, view how-to videos, send snapshots of moments in time and share your life with friends and family?
I’m up and at ’em every day by ... 6 a.m.
When it comes to my exercise routine ... I wish I could say it’s five days a week, two hours per day, but the reality is it’s a few hours per month of swimming at the YMCA in Mattoon.