After more than a decade working at the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office, Wayne Kelly enjoys a lot of the aspects of his job.
But Kelly, now an investigator with the SCSO, said the best part comes when people realize what the mission is for he and his colleagues.
“I think the best thing is when you have something you’re dealing with, whatever it is, and you can truly help somebody and give them that out they need,” Kelly said. “That ‘ah ha’ moment for them. The case has been resolved or something has been resolved.
“There’s so much negativity any more that they can see the good, we are truly here to help you. Sometimes you may not see it that way, but we’re truly here to make a difference in your life, and try to make things better.”
Kelly has been doing that for the SCSO since July 2007, save for a short stint a few years ago with the state’s Inspector General’s office. He previously had worked for the Perry and Live Oak police departments.
He made such a difference during his stint as a deputy on patrol that one of Sheriff Sam St. John’s first actions after becoming sheriff in 2017 was to move Kelly to investigations.
“It was one of the first things I did because I knew Wayne’s abilities and I have not regretted it since,” said St. John, who was Kelly’s supervisor for awhile in the patrol division. “I don’t know how he gets as much done as he does.
“Wayne is one of a kind.”
Kelly said that work on patrol has been very beneficial to his new role, particularly at a small agency like the SCSO. It provided a chance to do the multitude of work an officer eventually must do.
“We’re small enough that a lot of guys do their own case work,” he said. “As far as the investigation side, it’s something we’ve always done from the ground up. That’s what makes you good at what you do.
“I tell people … at deputy, you’re the jack of all trades and the master of none. You have to be able to do a little bit of everything, from civil to the criminal side and all of it.”
While applying the various trades, St. John said Kelly showed early on that he was a master at solving cases. That ability is still there, with St. John crediting Kelly among other SCSO investigators as playing a key role in helping the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office with working the recent murder of Steven McGee. Three suspects were caught in less than a week after McGee’s body was found.
“Anything that occurred on our shift, from a burglary to a theft to any type of crime that occurred, I’d put those two on it and in a matter of hours or days, it would be solved,” St. John said of Kelly’s work with partner Donnie Brown years ago.
“He just has a knack for being able to talk to people, to relate to people, to being able to get people to confess to him. He’s just a real people person. And he’s got a little bulldog in him. Once he gets on to something, he doesn’t let up.”
While Kelly has a knack for finding information, he said it’s not as easy as it appears, especially on television. And television, and social media — while great tools — can cause issues for law enforcement officers as well.
Namely, it gives people an unrealistic viewpoint.
“The things they see on that side has warped a lot of people’s minds,” Kelly said, using the speed at which a case is solved on CSI as an example. “I think it messes up people’s ideas of what we do so when we do go somewhere, they think we’re not doing anything for them.
“They don’t realize the reality side of it.”