When Corrections Chief Scott Salley retires Jan. 8 from the Collier County Sheriff's Office, his legacy will most tangibly be passed on in the form of a 3-foot-long cypress stick kept in his office.
The stick — a reminder of how things used to be done in jail — also reminds him of how far the agency has come.
"I plan to pass it on to the next guy," Salley said.
Salley became head of the county's jails in 2004 after 23 years with the Sheriff's Office. Most recently, he has served on the Sheriff's Advisory Reintegration Board, a coalition of community stakeholders that meets to discuss how to better reintroduce inmates to society.
"Some programs we're doing today — culinary arts, cell dogs, the Seven Habits (of Highly Effective People) — that was so far-out back then, but we chipped away every day, every week," Salley said.
Prior to his time in the jail, Salley worked as an administrative assistant for then-Sheriff Don Hunter, acting as a liaison between Hunter and the rest of the agency.
"He just seemed to have very good and extraordinary interpersonal communications skills," Hunter said. "He had a refreshing and friendly demeanor, and he didn't come across as a hardened, cynical law enforcement officer. … It was a very valuable learning experience for him, but it really opened the agency up to be more family-like, to talk about our issues."
Salley also has been heavily involved in drug abuse prevention, serving on the board of Drug Free Collier as the group's past president. Salley said his involvement is personal, having lost his son Deke to an overdose in 2002.
"That was when I came to grips that we had to do something quickly," he said. "I see in people so much of my son who was struggling."
Several internal candidates are being interviewed for the chief position, although no successor has been formally named. Salley said he is considering using his retirement to obtain a doctorate in order to help young people struggling with peer pressure and drug or alcohol abuse develop life plans.
"Chief Salley's dedication to Drug Free Collier and other organizations, along with the work he has done to provide inmates with the tools they need to be successful when they leave our facility, have benefitted our agency and our community," Rambosk said. "I wish him well as he enters his next chapter of life."