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Gill moves from deputy to sheriff's post
Reg Gill took over as sheriff of Lafayette County in January, replacing Scott Pedley, who retired after 25 years in the county's top law enforcement position. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
DARLINGTON - Former Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley left some big shoes to fill when he retired this winter.

"There is no way I could ever fill his shoes," said Reg Gill, who was elected in November to take over the top law enforcement post in the county. "They're just going to be different sized shoes."

Gill, a former deputy with the sheriff's office for 15 years, took the helm as sheriff in January. Ironically, he never had plans to become sheriff - or even a part of law enforcement for that matter.

Gil owned a tool distributing business, and was approached by the Cuba City Police Department about a part-time job. For a time, he did that as well as his own business. Eventually, Pedley offered Gill to join the sheriff's department part-time and after some schooling and training, he moved into full-time.

"It kind of all fell together," Gill said.

Gill grew up farming south of Darlington with his father, three brothers and one sister. His brothers took over the dairy and beef farm and Gill went to college in Fennimore and for a few years in Platteville. Gill said he never wanted to leave Lafayette County and fell in love with the place early on.

"It's beautiful out here, and the people are fantastic. There are a lot of tremendous people here," he said.

Gill said he misses being out on patrol sometimes, but is getting used to his new title. Joining the administration of the sheriff's department was a bit of a challenge, Gill said, but he was already accustomed to running a budget from being self-employed.

"Working on payroll is new to me," Gill said.

He said shadowing Pedley after he won the election helped ease him into the job.

"He's (Pedley) been a really valuable asset at the end of the phone," Gill said.

Gill said he has hopes to update communications in Lafayette County and replace the radio tower that was built in 1968. He also wants to update the internal dispatch system that has been around since the 1980s, but asking the taxpayers for that kind of update is a big burden.

He said the upgrades will eventually have to happen, but the price tag - "at least $1 million to upgrade" - is intimidating.

Along with Gill's new responsibilities came the task of being the face of the department - including taking the occasional ill will from those who dislike it. But most people in the county mostly trust the sheriff's office, Gill said.

"There's an overall respect for the badge," Gill said.

While Gill said he doesn't think that violence in the county is a growing concern, but he remains cognizant of the nationwide issue of officer-involved shootings such as those in Ferguson, Mo. and Madison, or the Wisconsin State Patrol trooper who was shot and killed in Fond du Lac last week.

Gill said he knows a circumstance will arise eventually where a deputy will be involved in a shooting.

"We know that it's a situation of when, not if," Gill said. "I'm the lead firearm instructor and we do lots of active shooter training ... but it's hard to mentally prepare for that sort of thing."

His goal is to keep everyone in the community safe, and his officers from being hurt or killed.

"I've inherited a great staff," Gill said.

When Gill tells law enforcement at meetings in Milwaukee or Madison that there is not a single stoplight in Lafayette County, he gets laughs, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"This will always be home," Gill said.