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Waubonsee Names Kendall Sheriff Baird as Distinguished Alumnus
Given its name, it’s no wonder Waubonsee Community College takes its mission of serving the community very seriously. So too do many of the college’s most successful alumni, including Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird. As he nears his 25th year of serving and protecting as a member of local law enforcement, the college is proud to name Baird its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus.
A career in public service was always in Baird’s plans, from the time he was a teenager. In fact, his plan back then was to serve as an officer in the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office, then the Oswego Police Department, then become a lawyer, a judge and finally a state senator.
Remarkably, it’s a plan he’s stuck to — for the most part. He’s worked at both the Sheriff’s Office and the Oswego Police Department, and while not a lawyer, judge or state senator, as Sheriff, he is an elected official.
The foundation for all of Baird’s various roles was built at Waubonsee. After graduating from Oswego High School in 1986, Baird headed to the college to study criminal justice under longtime faculty members Bob May and Neil Lippold.
“I had heard great things about Waubonsee, and it was a good fit for me,” Baird said. “I could work a couple of jobs while still getting my education.”
When he earned his associate degree in 1988, Baird was still too young to test to become a police officer, and so he continued his job in loss prevention at the Montgomery K-Mart store until he turned 21 and was hired on at the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office by then-Sheriff Richard Randall, also a Waubonsee alumnus.
Perhaps Randall saw in Baird the same thing Baird now sees in the Waubonsee graduates who apply to work for the county.
“The great thing I see in Waubonsee and other community college graduates is that they have often worked in the real world and have that life experience,” Baird said. “That experience helps them relate to the people and situations they’ll be dealing with.”
After working in countywide law enforcement for a few years, Baird went on to the next step in his career path — a job with his hometown police department. He spent more than 22 years there, rising through the ranks to become chief and also serving as the interim village administrator for a time.
As he moved up the ranks, Baird sought out additional education, earning his bachelor’s degree from Aurora University and his master’s degree from Western Illinois University. Throughout these experiences, he continued to draw on his time at Waubonsee.
“I would still find myself reflecting on projects I did at Waubonsee or even referencing books I had used there,” Baird said.
Baird consulted his long-held career plan once again in 2014 when he ran for and was elected Kendall County Sheriff.
“Kendall County is very diverse, ranging from suburban areas to more rural townships,” Baird said. “One day we could be dealing with a cow in a roadway and then the next with a drive-by shooting. It’s a very diverse area, and the workload is ever-changing.”
Whatever the nature of the communities in the county, Baird is making efforts to connect with all of them. He decided to have the Sheriff’s Office head up security at the Kendall County Fairgrounds this year in order to be more visible in the community. For National Night Out on Aug. 4, the office participated in “Cops and Kids: Taking a Swing at Crime,” an exhibition softball game between the office and some Oswego Pony League players.
“We really want to build relationships and respect between citizens and police,” Baird said.
Baird’s advice to new and aspiring police officers echoes this theme of respect. “Police power and authority is given by the people, and we’re there to serve them, not ourselves.”
Because of his exceptional service to local residents, Baird has been recognized many times throughout the years. Among his many honors and awards are the Lifesaving Award from the Illinois Police Association, the Medal of Valor from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Metropolitan Enforcement Groups Director Award, Youth Service Volunteer Award, Oswegoland Optimist Police Officer of the Year, Governor’s Medal of Honor and the 2014 Illinois Crime Commission Police Chief of the Year.