Former Marines are now former deputies

James LeBlanc, Paul Stephenson, and William ‘Ike’ Eichelberger

Veteran Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office employees Deputy James LeBlanc, Sergeant Paul D. Stephenson, and Deputy William B. “Ike” Eichelberger are calling it quits and entering retirement – after almost 100 years of combined service to the county on top of decades of service to the country as well, as all have also served as U.S. Marines.

“I’ve been in a uniform since I was 17,” Eichelberger told Jefferson County Commissioners Court on announcement of his pending departure. “It’ll be hard getting used to wearing civilian clothes.”

But all three men are hoping to give civilian attire a try.

Eichelberger, who served as the head of the sheriff’s office union for 20 years, has been a staple in the community for over 40 years, and even recruited Commissioner Brent Weaver into the Marine Corps in the early 1980s during a 25-year stint in the armed forces prior to his employment at JCSO.

“It’s something to see that kind of experience leave the county,” said a dismayed Weaver, who wished his old friend well in his future endeavors.

“We’ve had some good years,” Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal said, revealing his most memorable encounter with the departing Eichelberger. The scene begins as the elected official took a hard tumble that turned into a medical emergency. “He pushed me down,” Sinegal joked, seriously noting that it was the long-time serviceman he called “Ike” who swept into action and personally attended to the elected official until medical help arrived. “Good times.”

Stephenson noted that, during his tenure, he worked under four sheriffs – all of whom he honored when he accepted his retirement recognition from the Commissioners Court along with the personal proclamation, American flag, and watch that comes with it.

Sheriff Zena Stephens said she hated to see the trio leave.

“Our agency is going to suffer a loss,” Stephens said. “These shoes are tough to fill.”

LeBlanc was with the county for 33 years and three months; Stephenson was with the county for 29 years and 10 months; and Eichelberger was with the county for 22 years and seven months.