Sheriff Charles Mades: Farewell to a good man

December 05, 2006

Was there ever any doubt that Charles Mades would make a good sheriff?

Even at age 17, there were signs that this young man was going to do some great things.

The son of Sgt. Charles D. Mades, commander of what was then called the Hagers-town Post of the Maryland State Police, the future sheriff was not only a newspaper carrier - with 83 customers - but was also assistant sports editor of the Saint Maria Goretti High School newspaper.

In 1957, he told columnist Dave Cottingham that he thought he might go into the construction business, but he eventually became a Maryland State Trooper.

After retiring in 1986 after 25 years of service, Mades declared for sheriff and ran what was, at the time, an innovative campaign.


In September of that year, he complained that voters didn't want to discuss the issues, such as the fact that the correctional component of the department consumed the majority of its budget.

In that race, Mades also proposed a special tactical force and called for better communication with the public and the press, which had not always been the case during his predecessor's administration.

The next year, Mades was one of only two sheriffs in the state selected to go to a three-month training stint at the FBI Academy.

By 1990 Mades was doing so well in the job that he was not opposed for re-election. He drew praise from local judges for his handling of the detention center.

The Jail Substance Abuse Program was the first of its kind in the state, according to then-Circuit Judge Daniel Moylan.

Mades also instituted a home-detention program to help keep the detention center from becoming overcrowded. In addition to its cost-cutting potential, the program also saved taxpayers money by allowing those in the program to work during the day.

During Mades' time in office, he has overseen a budget that went from $2.7 million in 1986 to $5.5 million in just 10 years time.

By 1998, the budget had reached $9.9 million and the department had 200 employees.

In an interview that year, Mades said the two most interesting cases that his department had handled were the bombing of John Corderman, then a Washington County Circuit Judge and the disappearance of former Judge Paul Ottinger.

Ottinger, who admitted having a gambling problem, was convicted of mail fraud, bank fraud and forgery.

Ottinger completed a federal sentence at a minimum-security prison in Florida. Then, despite the fact that he faced additional prison time in Maryland, he was allowed to return to the state on his own.

After arriving in Hagers-town, he went to the detention center, asked to see Mades and turned himself in.

But the story of Charles Mades is much more than a few colorful anecdotes. Mades oversaw the expansion of a department that went from incarcerating 180-some detainees a day when he took office to more than 400 now.

Annual calls have more than quadrupled and the department has also taken on the job of monitoring registered sex offenders.

Mades consistently pushed for improvements in both the department's facilities and employees' pay, even though at one point he was paid less than the greenskeeper at Black Rock Golf Course.

The one thing he was unsuccessful in doing was in getting a central booking facility built, although the state has approved some money for planning purposes.

Police and deputies would bring those arrested to the facility, where they would be processed by other staff, speeding the arresting officers' return to the streets.

It would be most fitting to recognize the outgoing sheriff's professionalism and his years of commitment to Washington County by naming the new structure the "Charles Mades Central Booking Unit."

We hope that local and state government can make that happen sooner instead of later.

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