Faces in the Crowd: Justin Halladay

November 4, 2019

Eckel and Justin Halladay
Justin Halladay-Director of Osceola County Commission on Aging
Justin Halladay on his last day of work at the Sheriffs Department.
The Halladay Family.

Justin Halladay originally had plans to be an engineer or a pilot.

Fortunately for residents of Osceola County, those plans changed.

After serving 23 years for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department – including nine months as sheriff – Halladay recently moved on to serving the county in a new capacity.

Two months ago, Halladay was named the Director for Osceola County’s Commission on Aging.

After spending 23 years moving up the ranks, gaining experience, and navigating the various challenges within law enforcement, Halladay is excited to help provide Osceola County’s seniors with the resources that they need.

But there’s more to Halladay than being a public servant.

The most important thing to Justin is family. Family is everything.

Along with his wife, Eckel, the Halladay’s have raised their two sons, Austin and Luke, from their Ashton home. And the Ashton area has always been home to Justin – that’s where he grew up, with his parents, Jim and Carol, and his three siblings.

We caught up with Justin recently and learned what he’s all about. We learned that there’s nothing more important to him than his family, and serving the people of Osceola County. We learned that Justin Halladay is more than another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: Where did you grow up? What kept you busy?
Justin: I’m from Osceola County; born and raised here. Leroy’s my address; Reed City’s my phone number. Ashton is where we always said we grew up – Ashton doesn’t have a post office, but it’s pretty much my hometown – I still live only about a mile from there.
I’m the youngest of four [siblings]. I have a brother and two sisters. Hanging out with friends. Played little league baseball – went to Leroy Elementary. As I grew up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which really had nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that I really appreciated them. It kind of led me, maybe without even knowing it, to appreciate the career that I have now. I love my family. Family means everything to me, and it still does. I graduated from Pine River – I was a pretty average student, played some sports.

I went to school at Ferris; originally I was going to be an engineer – I wanted to fly planes, and do something like that – but I didn’t have the eyes. So then I went into criminal justice and human relations and business management. I graduated and started work initially in Wexford County for a few months, and then I started working in Osceola County. For a while, I substitute taught at Pine River and Reed City schools, and then I continued working for the sheriff’s department – where I worked full-time from 1996 through 2019.

MP: What made you decide you wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement?
Justin: I always liked airplanes – that was easy; people would always say, ‘Why’d you want to be an airplane pilot?’ Well, I liked planes. Becoming a police officer, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do; it wasn’t something that was always there. I know playing cops and robbers as a kid, I was always the cop! I always felt like doing the right thing. I always appreciated the hero; I appreciated a person who stood up for other people. I didn’t like it when I seen people hurting others or taking advantage of others.

I was coming home from school one day, and I seen a state trooper, and I thought: ‘You know, that’s something that I could do.’

I started taking the classes and working with people, and taking psychology, and sociology, and a lot of social skills – understanding people’s emotions and not just moving on; understanding the causes of it, and the ‘why’s?’ behind [their actions] in order to fix it. That felt a lot [better] than just writing tickets or to simply hold people accountable – you’ve got to find the core behind it. That felt good, and it just kind of expounded from there. Some people do it to put the uniform on; some people do it for the power. I did it because it felt like my best way to make tomorrow a better day.

MP: And you’ve recently been named the Director for the Commission on Aging. Tell us about your role here at the COA.
Justin: I like the idea of making COA something it wasn’t before. Continuing the excellent service that the people of this county have grown to count on, and continue that. And just continue to grow. That’s what I’m here for now – to help bring this place together. And it’s working. I’ve been here two months now, and I’m probably happier than I’ve been in a long time. I have a great staff, and the clients we serve every day – just like the DARE students, back in time – are happy to see me.
I know when I came here, they said: ‘Hey, we’re Osceola County’s best kept secret.’ And they were proud of that. And I think that they’re right – I think this is the best kept secret. And it’s my goal to not make this a secret anymore. We have all these services, and we have to absolutely give those services and provide everyone who needs them. Everyone knows the number to 911; well, we need to have the same rapport with the public, and the availability that every service agency has. The police, the hospital – everyone knows where to go, well, here’s where we’re at. And we’re trying to get that information out to everyone. That’s what we’re striving for – to educate people.

MP: Tell us about the COA, and some of the things that it has to offer.
Justin:We served just under 40,000 meals this last year throughout the county – it equates to about 160 meals per day. And these aren’t prepackaged meals; these are meals that our cooks prepare five days a week. They prepare these meals, they package them, and they go out to individuals throughout the county 60 years of age or older. Home delivered is generally for those who don’t have the ability to go to a meal site – if you do have the ability to go to a meal site, we encourage you to do so. The social interaction with others, and getting out there is very important. It’s a nutritious meal; it’s donation based – we look at it if you can’t pay, we understand. Most people pay about $2 a meal – and you’re looking at a fairly decent sized meal.

We do meals, home delivery. We offer home health care, and home services. Right now, it’s open enrollment for Medicare. They come here, and they work with our staff, and we help them through the procedure with getting enrolled in Medicare. To make sure they get exactly the right coverage that they need to have; we work with them getting their medications.

Educating the seniors – my background in law enforcement helps: talking with them about scams and elder abuse. Giving them information on that; everything from driving to road rage.

MP: Outside of work, what keeps you busy?
Justin: I have a family; they’re growing. My wife, Eckel, is also from the area. We went to school together; we’ve been married for 21 years. She works for Reed City Schools as an administrative assistant. Our sons: Austin, and Luke. Austin graduated from Pine River in 2018, and he’s currently a sophomore at Ferris in education. He wants to be a social studies, history, and speech teacher. He’s doing well. My youngest, Luke, is a senior at Pine River. He hasn’t decided what he wants to do yet – he’s torn between U of M and a couple other schools. He wants to be an aerospace engineer. Opposite of me, he’s got good eyes and he’s a lot better at math!

Family’s the most important to me. It still is. My family did a collective [sigh of relief] when I stopped being a cop. I didn’t have to put the vest on everyday and I don’t get the calls in the middle of the night.

I like to hunt this time of year; I like to travel. Our family has been to 40 of the 50 states. We really like the national parks – love the west. We just love it. I’m a huge Lions fan, which is rough, but I’ll never stop being a fan. Unfortunately, I’ve passed that on to my boys! I look at them, and think: Please, don’t ever lose that hope. I was 19 or 20 the last time the Lions won a playoff game – I was my son’s age – and looking back, if someone was to tell my son that he’d be 47 and the Lions still haven’t won a playoff game; or if they were to tell me that I’d be in my 70s and we still haven’t won… I’d just about want to puke. So if there’s one thing Lions fans have in spades over anybody else, is hope.

MP: Who have been your biggest role models over the years?
Justin: My parents, they worked very hard doing what was right. Doing what they could for others; being very selfless. If you went out for dinner, my parents never asked for a cent. To this day, if I go home and fill the gas tank up or something, my dad’s trying to give me money. My parents are very giving and very selfless. My grandparents. My grandma used to go outside and play catch with me, and she was 90 years old – and I didn’t even know it.

In [law enforcement] I learned to take the best of everyone that I saw, and to take the worst of everything that I’d seen – and to make the best of me out of that. I learned from multiple officers; my role models there were basically everybody.

My wife, she’s a good role model. She works hard every day; takes care of our family every day. Those days when I start feeling selfish, I look at her and realize that I need to be more selfless.

And my kids, Austin and Luke. My family. I think that we can be other’s role models, the same time they’re a role model to us.

When I came here, same thing. I didn’t know what to expect. And the [staff’s] enthusiasm for helping the seniors has been my fuel, my contagiousness, to come here and do what I can for people.

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