Monona County jail bond issue

Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt stands at an entrance to the county's jail inside the Public Safety Center in Onawa, Iowa, in February 2020. Elected in sheriff in 2000, Pratt will retire March 31 after a 33-year career in law enforcement.

ONAWA, Iowa — Jeff Pratt's fishing boat just might make it out of the garage this summer.

His duties as Monona County sheriff often kept him too busy to put his boat in the water as often as he would have liked. They also cut into spending time with his grandchildren.

He'll have more time for both come March 31, when he retires after more than 22 years in office.

"I'm ready to relax and do something different," said Pratt, who was first elected sheriff in 2000.

A Sioux City native and 1984 West High graduate, Pratt, 57, said the timing was right to retire now rather than waiting until his current term expires.

He said he's reached the maximum level for state employee retirement benefits and has been offered an opportunity to join a friend in the insurance business, a way to continue to provide protection to Monona County residents, but in a different way and at a slower pace.

"I think it will be good stress relief," Pratt said.

By retiring mid term, it gives the next sheriff a chance to serve and decide if he or she likes the job enough to run for election in 2024.

Pratt's 33-year law enforcement career will have been spent entirely in Monona County. He began working in the Onawa Police Department in 1990 before joining the sheriff's office in 1993. He rejoined the Onawa police force in 1996, ascending to the chief's position before he was elected sheriff and spent the past two decades in the office, overseeing a 24-person staff.

During that tenure, he was involved in the response to major tornadoes at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch near Blencoe in 2008 and in Mapleton in 2011. Missouri River flooding in 2011 also required long hours spent monitoring the rising waters and subsequent cleanup.

Pratt said he developed lasting friendships working with other responders during those events. He'll miss being part of that response team, but plans on remaining involved as a volunteer rather than in a law enforcement capacity. He decided that when he retires, he's hanging up his gun belt for good.

"I have enjoyed doing what I do. I have enjoyed working with the people in the county. Monona County is a great place to live," he said.

Monona County Board of Supervisors chairman Bo Fox said the board will announce plans for Pratt's replacement on March 31. The board could appoint a new sheriff or call for a special election to fill the office.

Judy Ehlers, chairwoman of the Monona County Historic Preservation Commission, talks about the little-known South Jordan Cemetery in rural Moorhead that is one of the few Black cemeteries in Iowa.

Originally published on, part of the BLOX Digital Content Exchange.