A "Small-Town Sheriff" With A Big Challenge

Matt Lutz may not be Rudolph Giuliani, and last week's tragedy may not have been 9/11, but Lutz demonstrated Giuliani-type leadership.

In my 33 years of covering news in the Mid-Ohio Valley, I've run across all sorts of law enforcement leaders (Police chiefs, Sheriffs, etc.): those who would bend over backwards to be cooperative with the media, those who are helpful at times and difficult at others, and those who are nearly impossible.

But I have to say that, at least on the surface, I'm impressed with Muskingum, Ohio County Sheriff Matt Lutz, and his handling of, what, at the least, was a difficult situation this past week.

First, I have to say that I wasn't one of the dozens of reporters who covered the wild animal tragedy near Zanesville, Ohio this past week. I watched the press conferences via satellite. I also don't know anything about the sheriff's politics or any issues he's had in office in the past.  As far as his background is concerned, I refer you to this article which appeared in Saturday's (October 22) Columbus Dispatch:


What I do know is that the sheriff and his deputies had a difficult job to do: kill a number of exotic animals in the dead of the night...something he probably knew wouldn't  be approved by a small but vocal group of people...to protect the public.

He also had to face a room full of reporters, most of whom he was probably unfamilar with because they were from outside the area (I saw TV station microphones there from Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh, among others), and who were probably unfamiliar with him and Muskingum County, and answer difficult questions.  And, of course, he had to defend his department's actions in putting down the animals.  Based on what I saw, he passed that major test with flying colors.

In making his announcement last Friday to issue an executive order regarding the possession of exotic animals, Governor John Kasich appointed both Lutz and long-time Columbus Zoo Director and TV personality Jack Hanna to the task force working on a permanent law to handle the problem.

Both were good choices.


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