At the age of 30 — immersed in the challenges and business of motherhood — Ginna Waxler decided upon a career change.
More than 25 years later, the retiring Defiance County Sheriff’s investigator can look back with satisfaction on that decision.
Waxler’s last day working for Sheriff Doug Engel was Friday, and the 58-year-old Defiance native said “it’s just time to do things that older people do.” And as one of the sheriff’s office’s few female deputies, Waxler said that was “no problem whatsoever.”
Married for four decades, she said her husband, Steve — a public servant in his own right as a Defiance at-large city councilman — was supportive of her decision in the early 1990s to become an associate sheriff’s deputy. It was not just your average decision, however, as the couple was in the midst of raising three boys (Steve Jr., Tim and Mitchell).
But with Steve supporting her decision, she completed the police academy training in Toledo and became a full-time deputy, hitting the road in 1993.
“It was just something I always wanted to do,” explained Waxler. “I never verbalized it until I was 30. (Steve) said if you’re going to do it, you should do it now.”
She did, and proved her worth and ability early on, becoming the canine handler for the sheriff’s office in 1994. Her trained dog’s name was Shadow.
“That was fun,” recalled Waxler. “That’s a lot of work. He (Shadow) was retired when I was put into investigation.”
That was April 1998, and she would continue in that department until about six years ago.
“Sheriff Engel taught me a lot about investigations and about going the extra mile, and eventually I earned that position and was put in investigations,” she recalled.
Being an investigator was “definitely the most challenging” for Waxler because of the child abuse cases she and fellow officers would handle. After about 15 years of that work, she joined the Multi-Area Narcotics (MAN) Unit — a drug investigation task force run by the Defiance County Sheriff’s Office with officers from several jurisdictions.
She described that last position — as an agent with the unit — the most “favorite thing I’ve done.” It was rewarding, she noted, because “every once in awhile, hopefully” someone could be helped away from drugs.
But like most law enforcement positions, the position has had its challenges as well. For example, she said officers are seeing a resurgence in methamphetamine use, something the MAN Unit is continually investigating.
As Waxler steps away from a job she has approached with passion, she credits former Sheriff David Westrick who hired her and the current sheriff, Doug Engel, who she has worked with her entire career.
“I was fortunate that former Sheriff Westrick gave me the opportunity to have this job, which I will always be thankful for,” said Waxler. “And Doug Engel, the current sheriff, has instilled in me over the years the drive and the love to investigate. Those are the two people that I would say have nurtured me in this job in my whole career.”
Although Waxler concedes the difficult aspects of a law enforcement officer’s job, she said the only thing she won’t miss will be poor road conditions.
“Bad road conditions are the only thing I think I won’t miss,” she said. “I get to stay home on snow days.”
One thing she’ll greatly miss is the people she’s worked with — her “family.”
“We’re all family — that will be rough,” Waxler said. “Weddings, graduations — we’re family, and I think sometimes we deal with things that are real rough, not only for our citizens, but for us. We get through those things together. We’re all close.”
So what does Waxler plan on doing with her free time?
“Hopefully, I’ll have pretty flowers next summer and work in my garden,” she said. “I’ll do all the chores I’ve procrastinated about working on all those hours, all those years.”