When Matt Carter formally retires as McCracken County sheriff at the end of this month, he leaves behind a department he hopes he changed for the better, and one he hopes will continue to change for the better after he’s gone.
Carter, 43, began his law enforcement career 22 years ago with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department, which he’s led for the past four-plus years.
“I remember when I started, the people that were in the sunset of their careers would reference and talk about how law enforcement has changed,” Carter said in an interview this week.
“Now I see myself doing the exact same thing.”
Carter had worked with Mercy Regional EMS for 3 years before joining the sheriff’s office in 2000, at the age of 21.
Starting out as a special deputy, Carter attended the law enforcement academy and worked the road, before transferring to the narcotics division.
After a stint in an operational role followed by time in general investigations, Carter was named sheriff in 2018 when his predecessor, longtime sheriff Jon Hayden, announced his retirement.
Both Hayden and Carter decided to retire before serving out their final terms in order to save the county money on tax audit fees. Due to the fiscal year and the elected term not coinciding, audits involve having to check the books of each sheriff if the handoff comes during the auditing term.
Carter has appointed Chief Deputy Ryan Norman to serve the remainder of the term. Norman is running unopposed for sheriff in November.
Reflecting on more than two decades in law enforcement, Carter said he was glad he was able to serve in McCracken County.
“I feel that there is a good relationship that we have with our community,” he said.
He referenced a checklist he said he’s kept since the beginning of his term, specifically noting programs that he’s helped to institute, including a sheriff’s citizens academy, a “Ticketing for Good Behavior” program for area youth, a sheriff’s foundation and the Badges of Hope program that aims to get help for those battling substance use disorders.
“The start of Badges of Hope has been one of the things I’m most proud of,” said Carter, estimating about 100 people have used the program in the less than three years since it was instituted.
The program encourages those with substance problems and needing transportation to a treatment facility to contact their local law enforcement for help without fear of reprisal — though those with active warrants or those found to be trafficking drugs may still be arrested.
“Our goal is not to see how many people we can arrest for drugs,” Carter said, though he touted the agency’s drug enforcement.
“If you can vigorously go after the drug trafficker and eliminate as many of those as you can, while simultaneously getting help for those with drug addictions … it makes it harder for (traffickers) to do their job.”
Carter also said he was glad to be able to secure pay raises for McCracken deputies, upgrade the department’s body cameras and restructure the department internally to add a drug detective at no cost to taxpayers.
“I think that if more people viewed life as trying to leave things better than they found it, I think the world would be a better place,” Carter said.
As Carter’s seen society change over the last two decades, and law enforcement with it, one constant he’s seen is the need for law enforcement to be active in the community, whether through initiatives and planned events or just “getting out with a group of youth shooting hoops.”
Carter said he’s confident Norman will continue to improve the department.
As for himself, Carter plans to go into business with a hobby he’s always loved — as a fishing guide.
“Fishing has been a hobby essentially my whole life. My dad would take me fishing as a young kid,” he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed it. I enjoy seeing other people have a good time.”
As his career comes to a close, Carter is confident that he’s led with integrity and followed his personal belief instilled by his father: “Do the right thing and stand behind that.”