Kent County appoints first female undersheriff

Michelle Young (Courtesy Kent County Sheriff's Department)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Sheriff has appointed the first female to the department’s second-in-command position.

Michelle Young held the position of chief deputy for the Kent County Sheriff’s Department since 2011 and will now serve as the undersheriff.

Young, who says she is excited to take on the role, has been with the department since December of 1989.

“Child labor laws weren’t the same then,” she joked to 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “I bring a lot of operational knowledge.”

Kent County’s long-time Sheriff Larry Stelma says Young’s experience and rapport with the department’s staff were big parts of his decision to appoint her.

He says he asked all of the command officers in the department who they wanted to see selected as undersheriff and the decision was unanimous.

“All the command staff recommended her,” Stelma said. “Every single one of them.”

Stelma says Young’s notoriety goes beyond Kent County and its sheriff’s department.

“She does a lot of committee work… both at the county level, the state level, and even at the national level,” Stelma said. “I constantly get good reviews… on how much they value her input and thought process.”

Young says the men and women who serve in the department are a big part of why she is excited to help lead it.

“I have a good working relationship with the entire team… We are an exceptional group,” she said. “I rely very heavily on my team members… I expect that not to change.”

==Above, Young speaks with 24 Hour News 8.==

Stelma says he thinks Young would make a great replacement for his position when he retires.

“I think whenever I’m ready to give this up she’d make a wonderful sheriff,” Stelma said, though he made it clear that retirement isn’t in his sights right now.

“I’m having too much fun,” Stelma said with a laugh. “I’m not ready to pull the plug…  I don’t have an ulcer yet. When I get an ulcer, maybe I’ll think about it.”

Former Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess retired from the department after 36 years of service to the county. Young says he leaves big shoes to fill.

“I aspire to do as well,” Young said. “Hopefully better at some point.

Stelma says he’s not yet decided who will take Young’s spot as chief deputy. He says he plans to make that decision in a few weeks.

The sheriff didn’t want to leave the undersheriff post open for any length of time after Hess retired at the end of the month.

“I have to have an undersheriff,” Stelma said with a laugh. “In case I get hit by the big bus.”

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