Sheriff Stelma began his career at Kent County Sheriff Department as a deputy in January 1972 and served in a number of assignments as he was promoted through the ranks culminating in his appointment as Undersheriff in 1999. He was elected to his first term as Sheriff in January 2001 and is currently in his fourth term having been re-elected in November 2012 Sheriff Stelma is a graduate of:

  • Creston High School
  • Cornerstone University, 1970 General Education
  • FBI National Academy, 147th Session
  • National Sheriffs' Institute, 2002
  • Secret Service Dignitary Protection, 1996

In addition to leading the Kent County Sheriffs Office comprised of 650 employees serving a population of 600,000, Sheriff Stelma also operates a detention facilitate housing approximately 1,500 of inmates. In addition he contributes his time and expertise to the following boards and associations:

  • Major County Sheriffs' Association, Member since 2001
  • Kent County Dispatch Authority, Board Member
  • Children's Assessment Center, Board Member
  • High Intensity Drug Trafficking Association, Past Chairman
  • Silent Observer, Board Member
  • Carrying Concealed Weapons Licensing Board, Board Member
  • Metropolitan Enforcement Team, Board Member
  • West Michigan Law Enforcement Association, Board Member
  • Michigan State University Executive Development Advisory Board
  • F.B.I. CJIS Policy Board
  • F.B.I. UCR Committee ? Chairman
  • Grand Rapids Community College Police Academy Advisory Board
  • Michigan Sheriffs' Association, Board Member and Past President
  • Michigan Christmas Tree Association, Member
  • Numerous committees ranging from technology to jail overcrowding

In addition to his considerable service to his community and the public safety profession, Sheriff Stelma is married, the father of two daughters and an avid hunter.


The Kent County Sheriff's Office is a full service law enforcement agency serving over 600,000 residents covering 700 square miles with 11 independent cities. The main office is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the County seat, and there are two substations serving the outlying areas.

The Enforcement Division is comprised of the Patrol Unit and the Investigations Unit, both supported by numerous teams. The Corrections Division includes the main Jail, a Work Release Annex, an Honor Camp (currently mothballed) as well as a Prisoner Transport and Court Security units. The Communication/Technology/Services Division is responsible for all technology including the Dispatch Center, dispatching for the Sheriff's Office, nine cities, the Michigan State Police, and 27 fire departments as well as numerous community outreach initiatives.

Experiencing the same strain on resources as most agencies have in the last decade, the Kent County Sheriff's Office has focused on collaboration and inmate community re-entry as the key to effective and efficient law enforcement.


The Kent County Sheriff's Office has been actively engaged in numerous collaborative law enforcement initiatives; one being the Kent County Metro Cold Case Team, comprised of six county, city and state police investigators and a supervisor, established in 2006 that has closed 12 cold homicide cases to date. Other examples are:

  • Major Case / Violent Crime Team
  • White Collar Crime and Fraud Team
  • Forensics Unit with a Computer Forensic Specialist
  • Drug Teams
  • Shared Training, Honor Guard, Dive Teams, and some tactical events


The Kent County Sheriff's Office has a long history of innovative inmate programs emphasizing inmate re-entry into the community. Kent County was the first jail in Michigan with a formal chaplaincy program (1961) and, in 2005, a specially designed and staffed Mental Health Unit providing 24/7 mental health services. In 2006, a Life Principle Pod, an intense regimen of preparing inmates for re-entry, was initiated. As a result, in 2010, Kent County was one of six jurisdictions nationwide selected to participate in an initiative sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections to pilot the Urban Institute Program, Transition from Jail to Community. Some initiatives have shown a 50 percent drop in recidivism. Other highlights of Corrections include:

  • 2012 completion of 550 bed renovation/expansion
  • Host site for the 2013 American Jail Conference
  • Maximize use of technology with video visiting and arraignments, full body scanner, kiosks, etc.


In 2005, a county wide initiative began to consolidate six independent dispatch centers into a single dispatch authority collaboration. This resulted in the formation of the Kent County Dispatch Authority which established two complimenting dispatch centers, using a single phone answering system, a shared CAD system (and other communication technology), and serving as the operational back-up for each other in the event of call surge or a center failure. This became operational in January 2013.

  • Utilizes over 700 community volunteers
  • Numerous on-line services including "Coplogic," an on-line reporting system
  • Active participant with the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program
  • Active participant in the National Night Out campaign, receiving Target Corporation's Event of the Year Award for 2012.


In addition to the many years of leadership provided by Sheriff Stelma from his early days as a deputy to his first term as Sheriff in 2001, the Sheriff's Office has greatly benefitted from the contributions made by Undersheriff Jon Hess and Chief Deputy Michelle Young.

Undersheriff Jon Hess has served the Kent County SO since June 1980 in a variety of supervisory and command level positions until his selection as Undersheriff in January 2001. He's a graduate Ottawa Hills High School, Grand Rapid, MI; Southern Illinois University and the FBI National Academy, 221st Session. Undersheriff Hess has responsibility for both the Law Enforcement and Corrections Operations in addition to serving Sheriff Stelma as his Executive Officer. Jon has been married to Susan for 32 years and has 2 adult children. In his time away from the SO he collects Chicago sports memorabilia.

Chief Deputy Michelle LaJoye-Young started her career with Kent County Sheriff's in 1989 and has held various positions throughout the department to include corrections, records, patrol and communications. Since 2012 she has held the position of chief Deputy where she is in charge of the day to day operations of the department. She has served several years as the chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for the Kent County Dispatch Authority and has been heavily involved in the implementation of a county wide 911 phone, CAD and Mobile systems. Michelle holds a BS from Michigan State University, a MPA from Western Michigan University and is a graduate of the Northwestern Staff and Command school. Michelle is married with two sons.

For additional information concerning the Kent County Sheriff's Department go to or contact:

Kent County Sheriff Department's Website:

Point of Contact:

Chief Deputy Michelle Young
Telephone: 616-632-6107

Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma
Telephone: 616-632-6101

Undersheriff Jon Hess
Telephone: 616-632-6101

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