ALBION — She admitted it — Stacey Beam was expecting the worse when called to the Noble County Circuit Courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Instead, she was recognized as one of the best.
Noble County’s chief probation officer, Beam was presented with the Order of Augustus, a statewide award given annually to the state’s top probation officer.
Beam said she was “shocked” by the honor, and had come to the courtroom with some trepidation.
“It’s never good when you get a call from the judges,” Beam said.
Instead, she was greeted by her family, five current or former Noble County judges and her entire staff.
“Everything is because of you guys,” Beam said to her staff. “Nobody is alone in this. We all have each other’s back.”
According to courts.in.gov, the Order of Augustus is an honorary award presented annually by the Probation Officers Advisory Board of the Judicial Conference of Indiana to those persons in the profession of probation whose commitment and personal dedication have exemplified the ideals and philosophy of John Augustus, the undisputed ‘Father of Probation.’
“The creed of John Augustus was: ‘To raise the fallen, reform the criminal, and so far as my humble abilities would allow, to transform the abode of suffering and misery to the home of happiness.’”
Wells County Chief Probation Officer Greg Werich nominated Beam for the honor.
“I have worked with her on several projects during the past 18 years and my nomination is based on her leadership in community supervision in which I have seen humility, compassion and integrity,” Werich said in his nomination letter. “Stacey has also been a leader in sharing best practices of her jurisdiction to whomever asks.”
Retired Noble County Circuit Court Judge G. David Laur also wrote a letter in support of Beam receiving the honor. In 2002, he was one of the judges who picked Beam to lead a probation department that at that time had lacked effective direction.
“Without a doubt, Stacey’s appointment was perhaps my best judicial decision,” Laur said. “She quickly bridged the divide in morale, being respected by all of her organization, knowledge, fairness and approachability.”
“You have a unique talent of quiet leadership,” Circuit Court Judge Michael Kramer said. “Your leadership is very inspiring.”
She was actually nominated for the award in early 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the process.
Beam started as juvenile probation officer in Noble County in 1989, shortly after graduating from Indiana University.
In 1999, she became assistant chief probation officer.
According to Kramer, in 1990 Noble County have five probation officers and two support staff. Currently, the department Beam oversees has 16 probation officers, two community corrections workers and five support staff.
When she first started working in probation, Beam said it was a compliance position, making sure the people on probation were where they were supposed to be and that they were drug and alcohol free.
Today, probation officers aren’t just waiting to pounce when an offender steps out of line. Instead, the program has expanded to involve numerous evidence-based teaching programs for offenders, the goal being to give them the tools to make better choices in their lives while still holding them accountable to the decision they have made.
Of all the new programming she has seen come into existence, Beam said one in particular is her favorite for the positive impact it has had.
“Drug Court has made a huge difference in our community,” Beam said.
Probation officers can’t help but find themselves rooting for success.
“We don’t want people to keep coming through the system,” Beam said. “Sometimes it takes a couple of times. Sometimes it takes more. You still want to treat them with respect.”
Being a probation officer is one of those unique professions in which return customers isn’t a sign of success.
“It’s not like Walmart where we want you to keep coming back,” Beam said. “If I never see you again, I’m good with that.”