GREENWOOD COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – In 2005 Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels was shot and killed while serving a warrant. 12 years later and the Samuels name lives on.
Now that same community is getting used to a new face, Sheriff Heath Samuels, Matt Samuels’ son.
Heath Samuels is going into his second year as sheriff, serving a community where he was born and raised.
“It is very relaxing to me to be able to run into people constantly remind you of I guess the good ole days,” says Samuels.
“There is also the portion where I have to be stern and strict with some of the people I grew up with,” says Samuels. “As long as you treat people with respect, I guess I have found that to be the easiest solution.”
If Samuels seems to make a difficult job look somewhat easy it’s because the role of sheriff runs in his family. His father Matthew was elected Greenwood County sheriff in 2000.
“He wanted to continue to do that for several years or several terms,” says Samuels. “And he had just signed in 9 days prior to him getting killed to his second term.”
January 19, 2005, began like any other day for Heath.
“He was always smiling. Whether I am talking to somebody, or waving to somebody, I think about the way that he smiled…”
“My dad had tried to call me and I was already at work, I missed the phone call.”
He didn’t know it, but that would be the last time he would ever get a chance to talk to his father.
“I kind of kick myself for not answering the phone that morning for not talking to him that last time,” he says.
Heath’s phone rang again but this time it wasn’t his dad.
“It is the last phone call that you expect to get because he was a cop in Greenwood County, it is not something that you, it is not a common occurrence for the cops to be in altercations. It is not a common occurrence for guns to be involved,” says Samuels.
But guns were involved and so were drugs. His dad was shot while serving a warrant, the convicted shooter was a man high on methamphetamine.
“We went straight up to the hospital and that is where my mom and my sister were, and a lot of the other family, and that is where they gave me the news that my dad passed away,” says Samuels.
Matthew Samuels has been gone for 12 years but his spirit is very much alive in the community he loved.
Reminders are everywhere, like a bust at the Greenwood County Historical Society.
“I think it depicts my father very well for a couple of reasons,” says Samuels. “First of all the smile. He was always smiling.”
Heath is drawn back to his father’s smile almost daily.
“Whether I am talking to somebody, or waving to somebody, I think about the way that he smiled and the way that he perceived himself to them and I try and do the same,” says Samuels.
Like father, like son. Heath hopes to finish the job his dad started by ridding the county of illegal drugs.
“I believe narcotics, methamphetamine in particular is the reason my dad is not here today.”
“He had such a big heart for everybody and did so many good deeds for everybody that he had an impact on a lot of people.”
Heath isn’t just living out his father’s legacy. He’s travelling his own road, forging his own path.
A path his father would be proud of.
Samuels says, “I don’t know what my future is going to hold, but I knew that there was something that needed to be done here. And I needed to do it.”
A Samuels wearing the sheriff badge is almost a family tradition, his grandfather was also sheriff.
The thing you might recognize most on Heath Samuels now, is the badge GW-1, the same one his father wore.