Like father, like son, like grandson. I am the third generation of my family to become a law enforcement officer, so you might say, protecting and serving others is in my blood. Since my first job in law enforcement over 39 years ago, I have considered this honorable profession a calling, and it is a privilege to now be serving my community as Sheriff of Washington County.
My granddad, Earl Thomas, moved from Missouri to California for work in the 1920's. He had a relative on the force with the Los Angeles Police Department, so he applied and was hired. Granddad retired from the LAPD after 20 years as a foot and mounted patrol officer. My dad, Robert Helder, also worked 25 years for the LAPD as a patrol officer and detective. He was a Lieutenant Detective in the Homicide Division when he retired. One note of interest about my dad...he was the lead investigator in the Charles Manson - Sharon Tate murder investigation.
I moved to Arkansas as a teen, graduated from West Fork High School, and began my law enforcement career in 1979 with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, working in communications as a dispatcher and later as a field deputy. In 1982 I was hired by the Fayetteville Police Department where I worked for 21 years, retiring in 2003 as Deputy Chief of Police. I then returned to my roots and began working for the Washington County Sheriff's Office as Chief Deputy for Sheriff Steve Whitmill in April 2003. In 2004, after Whitmill accepted a position with Tyson Foods, I entered the race for Sheriff and was subsequently elected. I began serving my first term on January 1, 2005.
I have been married to my beautiful wife, Holly, for over 30 years. We have been blessed with three awesome children, Nolan, Clay and Karli, and five amazing grandchildren.
Nolan, wife Kasey, and their children, Kane, Ruthie, Ellie, Henry, and Alana live in Headland, AL. Nolan serves as Children's Pastor with Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama, and is currently working toward his Doctorate in Theology at Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. Kasey stays busy as a "stay at home" mom where, along with all of the normal demands of a mom, she home schools our grandchildren.
Clay graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Relations and has since been busy in the music industry. He went on tour as stage manager with contemporary Christian band "Sidewalk Prophets", then began working with Indie rock group Knox-Hamilton as their sound engineer.
Karli graduated from the University of Arkansas in December 2016 with a degree in Hospitality Management. She married Beau Waddell in August of 2018. They bought a house in Fayetteville and they remain busy serving in a variety of areas for New Life Church in Fayetteville.
We enjoy being active and involved with our family and our community. We are thankful for our many blessings!