There is a reason being a public servant is called a “thankless job.”

We live in a time when no one can do anything right in the eyes of the public. When is the last time you read in the local newspaper that a public servant did a good job? Not that often, I can assure you. So when I see someone who is doing not only an excellent job but also a stellar job, especially under adverse conditions such as COVID, I think it’s time to recognize it. We need to appreciate it and celebrate it, or we won’t have many public servants left to choose from, and we depend on them extensively in many different spheres.

I am a member of the Cumberland County Jail Board of Visitors and want to recognize the herculean effort from Sheriff Kevin Joyce, the patrol and jail staff members during the last year and a half. It has indeed been a thankless job.

The Jail Board of Visitors is an oversight committee convened under state statute primarily to visit the jail to “ensure the security of the jail” and report back on mental health issues to the sheriff. I want to applaud Sheriff Joyce for updating us on how many inmates and staff were infected with COVID-19 during the last year. As you might imagine, going into the jail during the height of COVID, with the number of inmates affected, it was not possible. We relied on our sheriff to get the job done.

I know the media have barraged Sheriff Joyce for statistics and updates – some on almost a daily basis, with more than 30 or 40 questions a day from just one reporter, repeated day after day. Here, too, Sheriff Joyce responded with as much information as possible while keeping the jail operating, keeping COVID cases in check and continuing regular testing.

The first responsibility of the sheriff is to ensure the safety and security of the jail and the communities within Cumberland County. During some of the tensest times, with COVID rates through the roof, the need for information was understandably overwhelming.

During the height of COVID – some staff were infected, others chose to resign and the sheriff and his command staff were pulling regular shifts in the jail, unbeknownst to anyone – they were doing their jobs and going above and beyond.

The sheriff was working during the day and working at night in the jail. That’s an effort that needs to be recognized and applauded. After one late-night shift last month, the sheriff reached out to the Jail Board of Visitors to discuss what was happening inside the jail, to discuss when the state of emergency at the jail might end and how soon the jail could start accepting inmates again. His message was clear: He was grateful for the staff he had and that everyone was working hard to isolate COVID cases so it wouldn’t spread any further. There was no choice but to follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to stop the spread.

So I would like to add my thanks to Sheriff Joyce and all of the patrol deputies and corrections officers staff. When the state of emergency was lifted recently, we all breathed a sigh of relief – but not without knowing that it took much work to get us there.

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