WHEATLAND – Grady Winders, undersheriff for the Platte County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years has tendered his resignation.
The friendly face and mild-mannered law enforcement official has seen many things through almost two decades of work in the local law enforcement agency. He has been known as a fair but firm officer and always serving the county with integrity and character.
Born in Tennessee, Grady Winders’ family moved and raised him in Battle Creek, Michigan where he graduated from Harper Creek High school in 1978.
Winders comes from a musical family with a very gifted father who played nearly every instrument and a mother who had a mind to listen to good music and manage the family endeavors. They actually had a family band that was in high demand during the ‘70s and even when Winders was away for school or his job, he would also fall right into the rhythm if he came home and the band was playing. As a result, Winders is a talented guitar player that found his niche playing bass guitar.
He met and married his high school sweetheart, Leisa, and as the job situation was dire in the late ‘70s, Winders, looking for welding jobs for over a year and finding none, opted for the military for training and service.
He ended up doing a stint with the Air Force for over 20 years and retired as a master sergeant. “20 years, three months and nine days,” Winders recalls.
“When I retired, my kids were at an age where they were in high school and this was home to us because I bought a place here in 1986,” Winders said. “Me and dad went in together and we bought a place. Essentially my kids wanted to go to a place where they knew somebody and didn’t have to move anymore.”
Military life moved Winders frequently from New Mexico to Alaska to Texas and all points within.
The Winders had three children, Jaime (Anderson), Holly and Clarisa.
“When I got out of the military, I began working for Bob Ruwart Motors which is the only job I could find at the time, although I had a lot of resumes out for federal jobs,” he said. “Then, oddly enough I had someone tell me about an opening in the detention center. I got kind of curious and I applied, but the pay was just way below anything I could have taken to support my family.”
On a fateful Saturday morning, Winders was woken up at 5 a.m. and it just so happened that he had a chance to do a physical competition with the police department.
“Sheriff (Steve) Kegley called me at the time and said he’d like to talk to me,” Winders said. “He made me an offer and I’ve been here ever since. I took one year off when they fired up the youth challenge program and I went over there because I loved working with kids.”
In 2002 Sheriff Kegley got a police grant and wanted to create a new position of “school resource officer” and placed Winders in that position to help initiate and establish the program. Essentially Winders would go from school to school in Platte County. He was a “D.A.R.E.” officer.
“During the summers I would work the roads like everyone else, but during the school year I was at the schools,” Winders said. “I would teach security to the teachers, deal with law enforcement issues if I had to and even taught some constitutional law in some of the social studies classes.”
Until his resignation last week, he still maintained his title of “school resource officer.”
“I had a D.A.R.E. graduation at three of the high schools this year,” Winders said. “I also have been teaching a k-4 program in Glendo.”
Winders was asked by Sheriff Kegley if there would be any interest in him becoming the undersheriff and he was willing to take the position, but wouldn’t give up the kids, so there was special contract so that he could be undersheriff and teach the kids.
When the changing of the guard came between Sheriff Kegley and Sheriff Clyde Harris, Winders seemed to be the heir apparent to be the Platte County Sheriff, but due to having to take care of his dad who was very ill, Winders opted not to run for the position.
“It shocked me that Clyde picked me as his undersheriff, because he has a right to pick whoever he wants,” Winders said. “He just decided that he wanted me and offered me the position.”
As undersheriff for the past seven years, Winders has had a responsibility to be the acting sheriff in the sheriff’s absence, he has supervised patrol, detention, dispatch.
With Sheriff Harris not electing to run again this year, Winders again would have been the heir apparent with his history and his experience, but his resignation now makes the sheriff’s race in Platte County between David Russell, Randy Chesser and Shane Clevenger.
Winders who had what he called a “job offer he couldn’t refuse” is going to be a security lead for a Colorado Company that is operating here in Wyoming. He will be training in Colorado June 11-19 for his new position.
A new undersheriff has yet to be named.