Frontline Responders: Sheriff Billy Sollie
LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - After nearly 50 years in law enforcement Sheriff Billy Sollie is retiring.
“I’ve got mixed emotions. I still truly love being part of the team that goes out and catches bad guys and girls,” Sollie explained.
He’s been the Lauderdale County sheriff for 27 years, but after seven terms this will be Billy Sollie’s last.
“The wife has been retired for several years as a professor at MCC,” Sollie said. “I’m a little bit jealous of all the time that she has to do what she wants to do. I’m going to try to take a little of that free time for me.”
Sheriff Sollie began his law enforcement journey in 1974 at the Meridian Police Department. In 1993, he was appointed as Meridian’s police chief.
“I served 20 years and four days with the Meridian Police Department,” Sollie said. “Had some great memories and unfortunately some tragedies we had to deal with. I gave 20 years of my life to the city of Meridian.”
In 1995 he decided to run for sheriff. After becoming sheriff, he hit the ground running. He worked hard to create a competent, reliable and proactive department. In 2007 the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department became accredited.
“I wanted to be the guy that challenged every employee to be better tomorrow than you are today. That’s what we have done,” Sollie said.
Sollie has always been consistent in his role as sheriff, even through personal tragedy. In 2018, Sollie’s daughter, Caitlin, was diagnosed with cancer. She died in Nov. 2019.
“I cannot imagine me having the strength that she had to know that she was losing and continue the fight. We had a photoshoot two weeks before she passed away,” Sollie explained. “During that process of the photoshoot, it finally dawned on me what we were doing, that we were documenting her. It was tough. She has provided us with an unbelievable grandson who is her. A parent losing a child is probably the deepest grief you can have.”
He’s handled his share of battles. During the Lockheed Martin mass shooting in 2003 we turned to him for answers.
“The day that we had our last press conference. I went home and under a pillow was a note written by my daughter,” Sollie said. “That letter allowed me to have that moment of emotional breakdown. I sat in the floor and cried for the community and the families. It is what I needed because I had to stand tall.”
Sollie has always tried to keep his department up to date with training, equipment and technology. As he heads into retirement, Sheriff Sollie will focus on spending time with family and traveling.
“The biggest thing I want to be remembered for is that this department is better today than it was the day before,” Sollie said.
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