One In A Million... a million people live, work and play in upstate New York's Catskills region. These are their life stories... in their own words.
Series produced by Kent Garrett
Photo editing and website design by Ed Kirstein
Decades of Service
Thomas Mills Transcript:
In Delaware County, New York, if you do the crime, you’ll do the time—and you’ll probably get to meet Thomas Mills. Thomas Mills is the county sheriff and runs the Delaware County Correctional Facility.
Here is his story in his own words:
City of Oneonta, got about a year there, went with the state police for 20 years. Got out of that, retired; never going to go back, you know. The real estate market bellied up in 1990, and I had two kids in college. So I went to see the old sheriff here and said, you need somebody, I’m available. He hired me on the spot and put me in communications. He says, “You’re too old to go on the road.” It didn’t break my heart. I’d been a station commander in Margaretville for three years, and before that I was over in Sidney and Neponsit in Long Island. In other words, I’ve been around.
So I had a lot of experience in different areas, but you know, with everybody pushing me to run, I think they still have me now. I did run, and I did defeat somewhat of the incumbent. He got the designation from the governor. But he had to oppose me, and I defeated him. That was in ’98. I’m well into my 60s now, and I just enjoy keeping active, keep my brain going.
Q – I mean, are you as enthused about it now as you were 40 years ago, I mean, or you know—?
In a different sense.
Q – How has it changed?
I’m not rolling around in the dirt anymore. That’s when I made up my mind I was going to retire from the troopers. Here I was 40 years old then, and I’m rolling around with an 18-year-old kid who’s drunk as a skunk, stole the trooper car, riding between Arkville and Margaretville, red lights and siren, all over the road. I had him under arrest, and he took off on me. I tackled him out in the parking lot.
Q – At that point you realized that what?
I realized I don’t want to do this.
Q – Well, what’s the nature now of the prison population? Just if you could characterize the kind of people you get in here.
Well, we take all types. We take them right down to murderers. In the initial stage when somebody’s arrested before they get sentenced, they all come to county jail. So when you get somebody under arrest, if they’re a misdemeanor arrest, which is less than one year in jail, they would stay right here. We can hold somebody for two years, but they’re going to be like misdemeanor convictions, two misdemeanor convictions, and they’re going to run consecutively. The one year he does, and then he does his next year. You get one good day for every three days in jail, so you can be out in eight months.
Q – So, I mean, you could really have some bad guys here?
Oh yeah. We’ve had some interesting people. They had a murder here when I was still a trooper. Three guys executed a guy over in Trout Creek, him and his girlfriend, shot them right in the back of the head, tied them up and shot them in the back of the head. They weren’t going to open the safe. I guess when he shot the first one the guy gave him the combination to the safe. Whether there was a lot of money in there, I have no idea. Two of the three guys are dead. They convicted them once. They got the case overturned. This guy was a Vietnam vet. He was cruel. I mean, he spent too much time in Vietnam, that’s for sure.
Q – What’s the length of your term now?
Q – Four years. When are you up again?
Two and a half years. Then I’ll have to run again in 2014. It’ll actually be 2015 when I start, hopefully, my last term.
Q – Why is it your last term?
You know, like I say, I’m getting close, not close, I’m still four years away from 70. But I’m getting to the point I think about it occasionally. I still like getting up, still like coming to work, still like trying to help people and work with people.