Daviess County’s Retired Sheriff Reflects on a Lifetime of Public Service
Photos by Jamie Alexander
After dedicating 47 years of his life to public service, retired Sheriff Keith Cain now spends most of his days enjoying his family and tending to his horses. Cain entered the department in 1974 and served in several capacities before being elected to the office in 1999.
Cain has always aspired to live a life of significance, serving for the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, including a tour in Vietnam, before venturing into the world of law enforcement. After brief stints in construction and agriculture, and despite his mother’s desire for him to enter into ministry, it was the camaraderie of the Marine Corps that propelled Cain to his lifelong career.
“People still enter this profession for the same reasons I did. It’s not just a profession and paycheck; it’s a passion; I’ve always believed that,” Cain said. “Service has always been the focal point of my efforts. I like the saying ‘your sheriff,’ much better than ‘the sheriff.’ This office has never belonged to me or anyone else – it belongs to the people that put us in office.”
During his tenure, local and national entities have paid homage to the Daviess County Sheriff’s office for their proactiveness and professionalism. Cain’s primary focus was juggling law enforcement and constitutional responsibilities while serving the community and encouraging and supporting the deputies and staff internally.
He said he’s equally proud of his tenure as a Marine and Sheriff, and attributes much of his success to his faith and upbringing. With service at the forefront of his moral compass, Cain and company developed a reputation for being creative with their resources and providing service that exceeded expectations, often despite limited personnel and funding.
“I was very fortunate to have been raised in a Christian home with wonderful parents who stressed the importance of traits such as honesty, strength, character, and a genuine empathy for others,” Cain said. “Just as every minister was called to be a preacher, the Lord calls men and women into the field of law enforcement.”
Cain referenced the beatitudes, specifically “blessed are the peacemakers,” and related it to the field of law enforcement. While keeping peace often presents a unique set of challenges, he considers the title of peacekeeper as the highest of accolades.
Cain said the tireless and collaborative efforts of the men and women on his team that wear the 5-pointed star are responsible for his longevity and the long-standing success of the office. With stints serving on executive boards for the Kentucky and National sheriff legislation, Cain is adamant that his team is the “best you’ll find anywhere.”
“I’ve traveled and interacted with law enforcement professionals the world over, and the DC sheriff’s office can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of those institutions,” Cain said. “We had and have a cohesive staff of professionals that works as a team to achieve goals.”
When elected, Cain created a departmental policy with proven standards and mandates that enabled the office to gain accreditation through the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. His tenure also saw the criminal investigation division grow from two individuals to six detectives and one supervisor. The same division consistently maintained case clearances at or above the national rate.
More recent accolades include creating a firearm training that was so effective it was acquired by a national magazine, and crafting an active school shooter training adopted by many school districts across the nation.
“The successes that we’ve enjoyed aren’t the result of any individual,” Cain said. “They are the tireless collaborative efforts of the dedicated personnel wanting the sheriff’s office to succeed in its mission to protect and serve everyone.”
Cain paid homage to the tax division department, citing them as one of the finest in the state, and complimented the bailiffs and judicial security officers for their resilient efforts to keep the building safe. He also commended the many men and women on patrol that, regardless of weather, “cover for each other, take calls, share intelligence, and back each other up.”
Under Cain’s leadership, the office emphasized their relationship with other departments and entities, including Daviess County Dispatch, Kentucky State Police, the Owensboro Police Department, and the Daviess County Detention Center. They also maintained a strong alliance with federal partners, ranging from the FBI and U.S. Marshall Service to the DEA, Secret Service, and a host of others.
“During my tenure as sheriff, we were determined to have a place at the table when it concerned local issues,” he said. “A crucial element to our success was our community involvement. I believe that to be truly effective in the community, we have to have the support and engagement of the community. We’re very thankful for those partnerships.”
Cain’s crew – led by Cheryl Purdy – created a Cyber Forensic Department in keeping up with the times. He said Purdy’s initiative and skills played a crucial role in taking their investigations into the 21st century.
“I’m tremendously proud of our organization and what we’ve built,” he said. “My people and my staff made me love going to work. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding experience.”
Cain leaned on his faith to determine when the time was right to retire. He said he would have decided himself but loved the job entirely too much to ever know if it was time.
“God answered my prayers – it wasn’t any specific thing. It was with a heavy heart and some trepidation that I decided to leave,” Cain said. “I think we’ve left a legacy that ensures and facilitates continued growth within the organization.”
Forever grateful for his family’s support throughout the years, Cain is excited to spend more quality time at home.
“I’ve been absent at several events in their lives; if I have any regrets about my career, that is the only one,” he said. “If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is indeed precious, and we must cherish the time we spend with the ones we love.”
On November 30, Cain gave his last 10-7, which officers use to sign off from duty. His granddaughter is a dispatcher at Owensboro 911 and took the call. Seeing her emotional reaction is when it hit him – after 47 years, his time in the sheriff’s office had ended.
“It was a difficult decision, but the right one – the office is in incredible hands,” Cain said. “This office has bever been about one person and never should be. The office will continue to do as we have always done – provide the quality of service that members of this community deserve.”