Doug Abbott’s professional career with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has spanned four decades, so it seemed fitting that on his last day of work ― on the penultimate day of the year ― law enforcement staff members and county officials gathered to give him a proper send-off.
After working under four county sheriffs and performing different jobs and services along the way, Abbott’s tenure is coming to an end. The longtime Carroll County resident is set to retire Thursday, and Wednesday marked his final shift as fiscal coordinator for the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Jim DeWees and several of Abbott’s fellow employees met in the sheriff’s office lobby, where County Commissioner Stephen Wantz read a proclamation recognizing Abbott’s 37 years of service. DeWees also presented Abbott, 59, with a shadow box that contained old uniform patches and a key to commemorate the occasion.
Abbott, a 1979 Westminster High School graduate, said he planned to retire at the end of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic came to be. After serving four years in the Navy, Abbott started in 1983 as a corrections officer with Carroll County Detention Center. The following year, Abbott was in a swimming pool accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down but returned to work at the detention center ― a promise of employment given by then-Sheriff Sam Sensabaugh, Abbott said ― and performed many administrative duties. He took over as the office’s fiscal coordinator in 1998 under then-Sheriff Ken Tregoning.
“You’re the definition of perseverance, and it makes me feel good that three sheriffs ago [they] took care of you, because we’ve got to take care of our people,” DeWees said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
Abbott’s time in the Navy included a stint aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, and he was part of a crew that worked with ending the Iran hostage crisis under President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In his early days as a corrections officer, Abbott said he saw the detention center undergo its first expansion and increase in capacity. During the summer of 1984, Abbott’s life took a tragic turn.
Abbott said he dove into an aboveground pool while visiting relatives of his wife-to-be in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and wound up with a spinal cord injury. Doctors at the time told him he may never feel any of his limbs for the rest of his life. Abbott regained feeling and movement in his upper body but needs a wheelchair to get around.
A “never-give-up” attitude is what motivated Abbott to regain whatever physical strength he could and stay involved in his career, he said. After some recovery, Abbott said he was back to work at the sheriff’s office. And he’s been there ever since in some capacity, although Abbott said he’s looking forward to retirement in Daytona Beach, Florida, once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
“It’s been an honor to work with you and serve with you. I’m proud to have done that,” DeWees said. “Had it not been for COVID, there would be 300 people standing here wishing you farewell after 37 years.”
Wantz thanked Abbott for his service to the county and presented him with a proclamation that becomes official upon his retirement.
“There’s no doubt you’ve had some challenges, but the one challenge that you haven’t had is your commitment to this county,” Wantz said. “Every time I do this, when folks have put in 30, 35 [years], it amazes me of the amount of dedication that everyone has committed to this county. And that, my friend, is what makes Carroll County what it is, folks like you.”
DeWees said the large key inside Abbott’s shadow box was used to gain access to the county jail, and the sheriff also gave him a patch from his uniform when he first took the job under Sensabaugh. Since then, Abbott has worked for three other county sheriffs ― John Brown, Tregoning and DeWees ― as well as alongside several deputies and other members of law enforcement and county government.
“There has been a lot of great people over the years, some of them still there, that I’ve worked with. A lot of good people through the county and the sheriff’s office in particular,” Abbott said. “It’s helped to really grow this department. You’ve got a lot of future for a lot of people who are still here. I’m going to miss all the people for sure ... that’s the hardest part. I’ll think about that when I’m on the beach in Daytona.”