Sheriff William “Pat” Hartshorn “never considered starting my college education anywhere other than Danville Area Community College.”
Sheriff Hartshorn completed an Associate of Science degree at Danville Area Community College in 1971. He is the 2015 DACC Distinguished Alumnus and is the College’s nominee for the statewide honor from the Illinois Community College Trustees Association.
“I knew I wanted a career in law enforcement, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree beyond high school, and I knew I wanted to start at DACC,” he stated. “I have never regretted that decision.”
Sheriff Hartshorn said he had career goals, but wasn’t the most focused student in high school. “Thanks to smaller classes, caring instructors, and the opportunity to mature while living at home and working locally, I used my time at DACC to develop better habits and take academics seriously.”
After completing his Associate degree, Sheriff Hartshorn transferred to Southern Illinois University and graduated with a degree in Administration of Justice in 1973. “By the time I graduated from SIU, I was on the Dean’s list.”
Sheriff Hartshorn could have gone anywhere to begin his career after graduation, but he returned to Vermilion County when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 46. Pat wanted to be close to his mother to help her adjust to her new life circumstances. He was pleased to learn that the Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department planned to hire several new deputies that summer. He was in the right place at the right time, and his education gave him a career advantage.
When he was hired in 1973, Pat was the only Deputy Sheriff on the force with a Bachelor’s degree. This status, and his natural ability, led to early and frequent promotions, the first after only one year on the job. In 1976, he was appointed as Director of Criminal Investigations for both the Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department and the Danville Police Department, a rare joint appointment. After 12 years as the second-highest ranking officer in the Sheriff’s Department, he won his first Sheriff’s election in 1990. He has been re-elected six times and is currently serving his seventh consecutive term in office and his 42nd year in the Sheriff’s Department. He is the longest-serving Sheriff in Vermilion County history.
Sheriff Hartshorn is well-known in the State’s law enforcement community. He is Past President of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and Chairman of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Legislative Committee. His board/committee memberships include positions as an Advisory Board member of the Illinois Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Board member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, member of the US Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee, Chairman of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and Vice Chairman of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
The Hartshorn family truly represents a community college legacy. Both Pat and his sister Pam, the first in their family to attend college, started their education at DACC. Pat met his wife, Judy, in Biology class at DACC. Twenty-five years later, their son, Michael, sat in the same Biology class with the same Professor.
Sheriff Hartshorn recalled, “When Judy and I started life as a young married couple we didn’t face potentially crippling student loan debt because of our decision to attend a community college. When the time came for our son to choose a college, he didn’t consider starting anywhere else. He recognized the many benefits of attending his local community college, though he had many options.”
Each member of the family has used their community college education to give back to their home community, as well. In addition to Pat’s service in the Sheriff’s Department, Pamela Hartshorn Habermehl retired from the Danville District #118 faculty having spent her professional career in education, Judy Hartshorn is Director of the Vermilion County Juvenile Detention Center, and Michael Hartshorn is a Vermilion County Deputy Sheriff.
Sheriff Hartshorn served as a Police Science Instructor at Danville Area Community College from 1974-1976, before his duties as Chief Investigator took precedence. He continues to serve on the DACC Criminal Justice Advisory Council and the Danville High School Advisory Council.
Community involvement and a visible presence are keys to effective law enforcement according to Sheriff Hartshorn. Following this credo, he is involved in numerous community organizations, many of them directly impacting youth and other vulnerable segments of society. His local service leadership includes past Board membership with the Boys and Girls Club of Danville, United Way campaign leadership, Special Olympics fund drive leadership, Mental Health 708 Board Substance Abuse Task Force membership, Vermilion County Sexual Abuse Task Force membership, CRIS Senior Services Board of Directors, Chairman of the Vermilion County 911 Board, Chairman of the Vermilion County MEG Unit Board of Directors, and Danville Labor Management Council Board membership.
“As Sheriff, I see daily examples of the benefits of education for the vulnerable and disenfranchised segments of our society. Having a community college in my community brings immeasurable benefits to the people I serve,” Sheriff Hartshorn stated. “My life has been vastly improved, both personally and professionally, thanks to Danville Area Community College.”