Lynde Meeder has seen her fair share of firsts throughout nearly 24 years at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Meeder holds titles as the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team’s first female commander and the first female captain of the office’s law enforcement division. Nearly a week ago, Meeder reached another first when she was officially hired as the county’s first female chief deputy. Meeder said she doesn’t see gender as an obstancle and does not believe law enforcement is just for men.
“I have a daughter and it’s one thing I want to teach her: If you have a belief and a passion for something, you can make anything happen,” Meeder said.
Kym Craven, the executive director of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Agencies, said she is seeing more female officers receive leadership positions now.
According to Craven, the presence of a female law enforcement executive can serve to attract more women into the field.
“They have that image of what it would be like to have a female chief of an agency,” Craven said.
The downside for the first female leader in an agency, Craven said, is that she may have a difficult time finding mentors she can relate to.
“When there’s no one who has blazed the trail before them, there’s no one they can look up to and say, ‘Oh, I can do that as well,’” Craven said.
Meeder said she had unofficially assumed the job’s responsibilities after former Chief Deputy Jon Garlick took a leave of absence in August before his retirement.
Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said Meeder was the obvious choice to become chief deputy. In fact, Wade said, he didn’t bother with posting the job online or taking applications.
“Having somebody that’s second-in-command that you can go on vacation or be away from the office and know that it’s going to be handled with the same servant heart leadership that you have is a good thing,” Wade said. “There’s never a worry that she’s going to make a decision that wouldn’t be a decision that I would make.”
Wade described Meeder as experienced, intelligent and capable. Wade said he and Meeder started working at the Sheriff’s Office around the same time.
“One thing that’s very good about her is she’s very goal oriented and she’s very detail-oriented,” Wade said. “She’s an organizer, and she keeps us all in line.”
Meeder, a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School, attended Gadsden State Community College and transferred to Jacksonville State University with plans to become an accountant.
It wasn’t until she took a job in 1996 as a warrant clerk at the Sheriff’s Office that her plans changed. At first, Meeder said, she never thought she would end up as an officer, but quickly became passionate about law enforcement.
“Growing up in Calhoun County, it’s something that you feel like you’re giving back to the community you grew up in,” Meeder said.
Meeder completed courses at the Jefferson County Reserve Academy before becoming a deputy in the patrol unit. She was later assigned to work as an investigator, and worked her way up to becoming captain of the law enforcement division.
She said she has always worked on the law enforcement side of the Sheriff’s Office, and is looking forward to learning more about the ins and outs of the corrections side.
One of the biggest challenges at the Sheriff’s Office, according to Meeder, is hiring, training and retaining jail staffers. She said she’s looking for ideas to help with that.
“We’re hoping we can move forward for the safety of the officers, the safety of the inmates and the safety of the agency, overall,” Meeder said.
She said she also wants to use the position to strengthen her relationship with the public.
“Sometimes, being a supervisor, it prevents you from being out and involved one-on-one with the community,” Meeder said.
Craven said many people are welcoming to female law enforcement officers because they want their local agencies to resemble their communities.
In the 1970s, Craven said, women in law enforcement became increasingly more common. In the 1980s, Craven said, former Portland Police Chief Penny Harrington became the first female chief in the United states.
“That wasn’t that long ago … to have the first female police chief,” Craven said.
Craven said many of the female officers from that era are now reaching a point in their careers where they receive those promotions.
According to Craven, about 13 percent of all law enforcement personnel are female. While the numbers of female leaders, and officers in general, isn’t close to equal, Craven said, she believes law enforcement agencies are looking for ways to become more welcoming and diverse.
“I think the desire is there to promote equality,” Craven said.