The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Probation officer excited about new job

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

New Van Wert Municipal Court Probation Officer Zach Miller at his desk. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

New Van Wert Municipal Court probation officer Zach Miller may be young, but he’s already got some valuable experience under his belt — and the energy and commitment to put that experience to work.

Miller, who graduated from Defiance College in May with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, started Monday as the Municipal Court probation officer, replacing Jim Loughrie, who moved to Common Pleas Court.

During college, Miller worked as an intern for the Van Wert County Youth Bureau for a year and a half and nearly two years with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (OAPA) — both of which gave him experience that will help in his new position.

It was as a senior at Wayne Trace High School that Miller, who grew up in the Grover Hill and Latty area, first became interested in probation work. “I actually did a job shadow while in high school that got me interested in criminal justice,” he said, noting that his job shadow involved a member of the OAPA.

“You get to help people get back on track, more than you have to arrest people every day,” Miller said of his new position. “If I have to arrest somebody I will, but getting them on the right track is what intrigued me more about this job.”

Miller said he became aware of the probation officer’s position when he he moved to Van Wert shortly after marrying a local girl, Chelsea Harshman, in June. Although a little apprehensive about having to interview with Municipal Court Judge Jill Leatherman, he said the experience was a positive one.

The new probation officer added that he’s very pleased to be working with Judge Leatherman, who he said has similar ideas about what is needed in the probation area. “I’m excited, I really am,” Miller said.

He explained that he plans to look at each probation case on its own merits, with the goal of helping probationers get through the system successfully.

“If they’re really trying, I’ll work with them,” he said, but added that those who don’t want to cooperate will find their path much tougher. “If they don’t want to cooperate, well, we’re gonna have a problem.”

Although he was only on the job four days when interviewed on Thursday, Miller said he was already working on a number of projects, including implementation of a new electronically monitored house arrest system and seeking a new lab to test for drugs that would include the latest local drug problem: bath salts.

He added that most of the programs he is implementing in Municipal Court are similar to those he saw while working with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority. “It’s not new stuff.”

Miller said the Municipal Court probation department currently has a caseload of more than 600 cases, which sounds like a lot, but only about 100 of those involve direct supervision.

Those needing direct supervision, however, will find the new probation officer has some pretty firm ideas on what that entails — including implementing a system of unscheduled visits to their homes.

“By going to their home I can see where they’re coming from,” he said, adding that home visits also lets probationers know he is definitely supervising them — and not just from behind a desk.

Also for the first time, those needing supervision will be paying at least a small portion of the cost of that supervision, Miller said, noting that a one-time supervision fee of $20 will now be assessed. He and Deputy Clerk Karen Long will also be looking at other ways to make the department financially independent.

Meanwhile, the new probation officer said he wants to send a message early on that, while he is willing to work with people, he will do his job as well — no matter what that entails.

“Most of these people, they’re adults; they understand what needs to be done,” Miller said, while admitting, though, that there are “all levels of maturity” among those on probation.

“A lot of people think it should be a walk in the park, and it will be for those who follow the program,” Miller stressed.

POSTED: 07/30/11 at 1:41 am. FILED UNDER: News