Love County Undersheriff celebrates retirement after 30 years of service
After 30 years serving and protecting Love County, Undersheriff Harvey Stewart is hanging up his badge for retirement.
Stewart was born and raised in Love County and has served under three different sheriffs in various roles. He has been the undersheriff for the past 10 years — becoming the interim sheriff at one point in 2016.
Stewart knows almost everyone in the area, and many of them will tell you he has a heart for serving the people of Love County. “Harvey Stewart is one of the last of his kind, a man of the people, and demonstrated his heart of a servant as he cares about people and he cares about Love County,” said Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Simpson, who first met Stewart after he arrested a fleeing bank robber in 2012.
The moment he captured the bank robber was like something out of an old western movie, and one of the most exciting times in his career, Stewart said.
Moments after the robbery occurred, the description of the suspect and the car he had stolen was broadcast to deputies. The deputies set up along Interstate 35 and Stewart was stationed at mile marker 14.
Only about three minutes had passed when the bank robber drove by Stewart’s patrol car. “It wasn’t but just a short time he came driving by me. So I took off after him and chased him down — he tried to run from me but I caught him,” Stewart said. “He wasn’t too smart.”
Stewart still has the citation of congratulations the legislature presented him hanging on the wall in his office.
Many things have changed since Stewart first entered the law enforcement field 30 years ago. When he first started, cell phones didn’t exist. Now deputies have computers in their vehicles and body cameras — technology that vastly helps law enforcement officers perform their duties.
The county in particular has also changed and grown a lot over the last few years, Stewart said. The sheriff’s office was in the spotlight in 2016 after former Sheriff Marion “Joe” Russell was indicted for corruption, neglect of duty and maladministration.
Stewart took over as interim sheriff for a while after Russell resigned, and when the current sheriff, Marty Grisham, filled the position afterwards, it was an important moment for Stewart and the sheriff's office. “I think one of my proudest moments is when Marty came in and he became sheriff. We’ve come a long way in the last four and a half years,” Stewart said.
Grisham spoke fondly of serving alongside Stewart during his retirement celebration on Friday, Oct. 9. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without him,” Grisham said, adding that he has a lot of respect for Stewart.
A moment that still sticks in his mind is when Stewart rushed into a ditch to check a boy’s vitals after he had crashed into a cow on U.S. 77. "The guy will just jump in there," Grisham said.
Stewart was able to celebrate his retirement surrounded by friends and family at the Love County Justice Center. The building itself represents another big accomplishment for him during his time as undersheriff.
The facility had been long overdue and Stewart said they had to fight to get it built. Eventually, they secured 82% approval on a bond issue and the Love County Justice Center officially opened in Dec. of 2019. The facility has been a vast improvement in comparison to the former jail, Stewart said.
“We went from the outhouse to the penthouse, that old thing down there was terrible,” Stewart said. The old facility could only house 31 inmates compared to the new facility’s ability to house up to 100.
“It had all kinds of problems — what it was built for back in the day was to hold the local drunks overnight,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t for holding hardened criminals who could dig out and walk out.”
As a token of gratitude for his service, Grisham presented Stewart with a shadow box including his badge and other significant memorabilia from his time at the sheriff’s office.
Oklahoma State Rep. Tommy Hardin and State Sen. Frank Simpson also expressed their gratitude for Stewart and presented him with another citation of congratulations on behalf of the legislature. “Harvey Stewart has been an integral part of Love County, preserving the peace and protecting life and property as deputy sheriff,” Simpson said.
Stewart will officially go into retirement at the end of this month and plans to take advantage of the time to do more things he wasn’t able to do before. He plans to continue to gather cattle, ride horses, golf, visit with his family and travel more.
Stewart’s legacy at the sheriff’s office will be carried on by his son who works as a deputy. It has yet to be decided who will take Stewart’s place as undersheriff.
“I think I’m ready to let the younger guys come in and take over,” Stewart said. “I’d like to thank the citizens for being so good to me and working with me over these years.”