Our Baldwin County Sheriff, Huey Hoss Mack, is indeed a blessing to our county - not just by performing his duties as sheriff, but throughout his entire life, as he calmly ambles from one community commitment to the next.
He serves with a compelling sense of sincerity and energy that brings our sheriff's office to life. No matter what new challenges, difficulties, problems or requests each new day may bring, this sheriff meets them all with an unflappable attitude deeply rooted in optimism and positivity. His commitment to our community, both in and outside of the sheriff's office, is very much a part of his identity. One of his core beliefs and strengths is to lead with a servant's heart.
Mack began life in Atmore some 50 odd years ago. When he was three months old, his dad moved the family to Robertsdale in 1964, where he purchased the old Baldwin Boarding House and turned it into a family business - Mack Funeral Home.
The family lived above the business and young Hoss began working and learning the funeral business at only 8 years old. By age 12, he had learned it all and assumed his future was settled and secure in the family business as he finished his high school years at Robertsdale High. But, as is often the case, his dad had other ideas and encouraged his son to learn something new.
At about this time, Hoss was asked to serve as a part time youth pastor in Rosington. He was also attending college and working a part-time stint with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences where he learned to coordinate death investigations and evidence recovery for eight counties.
The year 1982 proved to be a providential year in the life of this promising young man. While working his two jobs and attending college, Mack’s beloved grandfather was robbed and murdered in a little country store in McCullough, Ala. With Escambia County having no resources to investigate the murder, Baldwin County sent in investigators to help.
Highly motivated by the personal loss, young Mack thought to himself, “I can do this.”
It seems that situations and circumstances were conspiring in a compelling way to draw this young man into law enforcement. He began working full time as a CSI agent, before the job was glamorized by popular television shows.
“We were called MEFA's back then,” he explains, “Medical exam field agents.”
Mack worked himself up to Chief Investigator for the state, overseeing 13 counties at the ripe age of 24. He loved the job and spent lots of time on the road and in court, learning plenty fast.
Life moved along at a busy pace and in 1987 Hoss married his lovely wife, Sherri, and added two sons to their family.
Meanwhile, his career continued to accelerate. After a Baldwin County shootout in 1989, Mack was called to assist the then sheriff, Jim Johnson, and urged to stay on in Baldwin County, which he did. The years were spent investigating felony and misdemeanor crimes and processing and gathering evidence in criminal cases.
In 2006, when Mack’s boss, Sheriff Johnson, decided not to run again, Mack made the decision to throw his hat into the ring. At the last minute, Sheriff Johnson determined he would run again and Mack had the dubious honor of running against and soundly defeating his former boss, a 20-year incumbent. Mack was sworn into office in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010, 2014 and 2018. His office oversees over 300 employees, nine office locations and a Sheriff's Corrections Center, which houses over 600 inmates on a daily basis.
But, who is the man behind the badge who handles this demanding job with such grace and equanimity? Quite simply, he is a Christian man with a servant's heart who dwells in gratitude.
“I am so grateful to have known the blessing of growing up here in Baldwin County and serving in one of the greatest professions there is,” he shares. “I don't think I could have performed this job anywhere else. There is so much to love here - from the sandy beaches to the delta mudflats, from the cotton fields to the pecan orchards, to the quality of people here-if you can't find something to love here, something is wrong,” he adds with a smile.
The sheriff speaks of the changes he has seen in Baldwin County in the areas of public safety and law enforcement.
“In my opinion,” he shares, “the county began changing from the picturesque 'Redneck Riviera'(named by Loxley's famed citizen, Fannie Flagg) to the tremendous growth of high rise condos and the moving influx of folks, following Hurricane Frederick in 1979. Despite the huge population expansion that continues to this day, I want the citizens to know that we are a safe county-with fourteen municipalities and a total police force of 500 to care for over 250,000 citizens-we are a very safe county.”
Law enforcement in Baldwin County is known to function with a great sense of cohesion. When new federal agents come to work in the county, Mack says they and their supervisors are always impressed. “You all seem to get along so well down there-there is so much cooperation,” they have told him.
He responds, “We do all work well together-we get together for lunch and share lunches, equipment and stories. It does bring cohesiveness to our law enforcement.”
In spite of cohesiveness and effective law enforcement programs, there are some frustrations inherent in the job.
“From 'baby sheriffs' in their first terms to seasoned officers like me, it can be frustrating when we are asked by the public to 'do something' about a particular crime and we cannot always explain what we are doing at the time because it may jeopardize the investigation,” Mack explains. “All law enforcement officers are themselves bound by laws and rules. Give law enforcement officers the benefit of doubt-lots of things we must do take time. It's all about the process-establishing close personal relationships with the victims, while we investigate and hopefully have the end result of criminals in jail,” he says.
As most of the public knows, throughout his years of service, Mack has accumulated numerous awards and accolades. He has served with the Rotary Club, as a lay leader in his church and through numerous board appointments including National Sheriffs’ Association, Boy Scouts of America, the Alabama Prison Reform Commission and Prodisee Pantry, among many, many others. His forensic skills were called upon when he was deployed to New York following the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks to aid in victim recovery and identification. This gifted servant is often called upon to speak at both national and international gatherings.
Mack’s unwavering sense of optimism is based on Biblical faith. He studies his Bible and lives by its instruction.
“In today's culture we have to choose purposeful joy--think good thoughts and pursue positive avenues,” he says. He also advises citizens to “quit watching the news - take a break and get back to your family time.”
Mack has a simple philosophy, to follow the Golden Rule.
“Our sheriff's office is here to serve equally,” he states, ”from wealthy citizens to inmates in jail-with empathy, dignity and respect. I instruct my corrections officers to always remember that each inmate has a mother and a father - everyone is to be treated respectfully. We conduct church services for our prisoners every week.”
Even a dedicated sheriff needs a break once in a while. Mack enjoys snow skiing as well as fishing and hunting. Family time is extremely important, as well.
Mack points out, “A job in law enforcement is a life choice-a calling, a career that can consume much of your time. Helping people with kindness is the core of this law enforcement office.”
Indeed, it is also the core of this prominent leader's life-doing it all with a servant's heart and aren't we fortunate that he does it all here in Baldwin County?
Among the bounty that springs from Baldwin County, our best asset is our people. They share their culture, time, experiences, and kindness to help enrich our communities. This column will attempt to bring readers the brightness of lives well lived and seasoned heartily with giving.