The Harford County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, Col. Steven Bodway, is turning in his patrol car for a jet ski and golf clubs.
After two stints with the sheriff’s office totaling 32 years, including the last four as Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler’s second-in-command, Bodway is retiring Jan. 11.
Gahler made the announcement about Bodway at his inauguration last week at John Carroll School in Bel Air, where Gahler was sworn in for his second term as head of Harford County’s largest law enforcement agency. Gahler said he won’t make any decisions or announcements about Bodway’s successor until after his retirement.
Bodway and his wife, Leisa, are moving to their vacation home along Lake Gaston in North Carolina.
“My wife is a planner, she’s been planning my departure for two years, since she retired,” Bodway said. “Recent events really caused her to put her foot down.”
In addition to the fatal shootings of Senior Deputy Pat Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon, and two deadly workplace shootings, Bodway was also involved in the pursuit of a carjacker.
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He made a deal with her, that if their house sold in November, he’d retire. The first people who came to look at their home bought it, which meant Bodway had to break the news to the sheriff.
But he knew it was time, though — every time he and his wife would vacation to their lake home, it was a struggle to come back. And Bodway is nearing age 64.
“I will soon be turning 64, and I don’t want to be here at 64,” he said.
Bodway retired as a major from the Sheriff’s Office in 2008 after 28 years and in 2010 ran for sheriff — Gahler was one of his opponents. After the absentee and provisional ballots were counted, 64 votes separated the two, with Gahler coming out on top.
Gahler lost the 2010 election to incumbent Democrat Jesse Bane, but defeated him in 2014 to earn his first term as sheriff.
64 his ‘nemesis’
Gahler doesn’t let Bodway forget the number of votes by which he won the 2010 Republican primary. It became his office number: 64.
“That’s so I know who the boss is every day I come in here,” Bodway said.
He may get razzed about the 64 votes, but that’s when Gahler and Bodway realized they’d work better together than against each other, Gahler said at his inauguration.
“We learned during that first election and as those votes were counted that we worked better together, rather than opposing,” he said. “Like-minded and wanting to bring real change to this office led to the partnership that existed in the 2014 campaign and in this year’s campaign.”
Bodway and Gahler have developed not only a strong working relationship, but a close friendship and Bodway has a deep admiration for Gahler.
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“The last four years with this sheriff, it’s been a joy to come to work,” he said. “I don’t know if I ever laughed as much at work as in the last four years.”
Gahler often keeps it light in the office, Bodway said, because of the stress of their jobs and despair that often goes with it.
He got choked up thinking about Gahler’s leadership, citing one specific incident.
Bodway recalled the summer of 2016, a few months after Dailey and Logsdon had been killed, when Gahler had contracted Lyme’s disease. His immune system was weakened and he was making few public appearances because of the paralysis in his face.
“He was so devastated with his physical health, he avoided public appearances because he didn’t want people to see him,” Bodway said. “But he still stood strong.”
Bodway was in his office when he heard someone trying to open the door to the office next to him — the sheriff’s office. Just three people — Gahler, Bodway and Gahler’s secretary — had keys to the office, and the secretary wasn’t there.
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“He’s supposed to be on bed rest, with an IV, and here he comes in the office,” Bodway said. “I said ‘Sheriff, what are you doing in here?’ and he said ‘I just love my job.’ I got up, said ‘Enough said,’ and walked out.”
“That was a couple years into his term and at that moment, I knew the citizens of this county made the right choice,” Bodway said.
Bodway has worked for eight sheriffs. William J. Kunkel, the longest-serving sheriff, was the best, but Gahler is the best ever, he said.
“Sheriff Kunkel gave me my first stripe. Sheriff Gahler gave me my eagles,” Bodway said. “Gahler is the best ever because of the way he has given his soul to this agency and directed it and changed it and put his personality up on it. It’s definitely courage, honesty, integrity — which is our motto — and he lives it and breathes it. I’m very proud to work for him and very sad not to be here for his second term.”
‘I knew my job was done here’
Bodway has two roles as deputy sheriff.
One is discipline, handling complaints from citizens and from within, he said.
“We keep people at their best all the time,” Bodway said.
His other role is flags, a running joke among his colleagues.
In the police ethics classes he teaches, Bodway tells students how important it is for them to be aware of their surroundings.
“When you walk in, your presence is a tremendous influence, it’s a profound first contact with someone, especially if you don’t know them,” Bodway said. “You try to have a positive influence on them, even though it’s a fleeting moment.”
That’s why Bodway hands out a flag patch, especially to children.
“I say ‘By the way, this is for you and isn’t this a great country,’ ” he said. “I share that with deputies so they understand, so even if they have nothing to give them, they give them a smile. It’s a blessing to wear this uniform.”
Bodway recalls a day standing in his office at 45 S. Main St., on the second floor, looking across at the courthouse. It was the afternoon and shifts were changing. One deputy was leaving, another was coming, he said.