By Alex Fees
ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. (KSDK) - Nobody could be any happier about this than any criminals who might reside in St. Clair County.
A law enforcement standard-bearer, Sheriff Mearl Justus, is hanging up his holster.
Sixty years is just about long enough to do anything. That's the benchmark Sheriff Justus would have hit next May. But his wife, Audrey, says his health simply wouldn't allow him to continue.
Sheriff Justus was elected back in 1982 and re-elected seven times. Before that he served 29 years with the Cahokia Police Department, including several years as chief.
Until recently, and for more than 30 years, Sheriff Justus and his wife lived in an apartment on top of the jail.
Undersheriff Richard Watson will serve as acting sheriff until St. Clair County Board members appoint someone to serve until a special election.
Watson said, "It's about those four windows right there," while pointing to the second story of the St. Clair County Jail.
"He was traditional. And in his day years ago, 60 years ago, sheriffs always lived at the jail. That was part of it," said Watson.
Captain Steven Johnson said, "It was very interesting every once in awhile you'd see the sheriff in a robe coming downstairs to get the newspaper. But I will tell you this, ever since he's been here there's no one here at the department that puts in more hours on the job than he did, every week."
Sheriff Justus stepped down Tuesday, a couple months after gall bladder surgery. He's had a couple more medical procedures this week.
Upon hearing about Justus' retirement, St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch tweeted "Sheriff Justus hired me for my first police job in 1980. He should be proud of his accomplishments. My number one law enforcement mentor."