Hiram – Last fall, Hiram Police Chief Ed Samec became ill, and learned he had developed a streptococcus infection in his arm. When symptoms of the infection subsided, but he continued to have shortness of breath and trouble breathing, Samec eventually learned that the bacterial infection had traveled through his bloodstream, paralyzing the left side of his diaphragm, causing the symptoms he’d been experiencing. Eventually, he met with Dr. Raymond Onders at the UH Case Medical Center, who performed a surgery in December to implant Samec with a diaphragm pacer unit, an electronic system used to stimulate the paralyzed nerves of his diaphragm muscles. Dr. Onders implanted the same device in ‘Superman’ actor Christopher Reeve.

At that time, Samec learned he would wear the device for 12 – 18 months to try and ‘restart’ the nerves. Now that six months have passed with no change in his condition, Chief Samec decided, along with Hiram Mayor Lou Bertrand and Village Council, to be placed on medical disability retirement, reporting for duty for his final day of work on Tuesday, July 5th.

It was one of the outcomes Samec began preparing himself for the day after his surgery, when he started planning for the future of his beloved department. He knew he had to prepare himself for the possibility, “What if this takes me down, and NOT the bad guys,” Samec shared. When the preliminary contingency plan became a reality, Samec knew he could count on Sergeant Brian Gregory to serve his department and the Hiram community. “From my first days at the department, I appreciated Sergeant Gregory’s leadership skills and capabilities, and have seen him work tirelessly for the best interests of the community.”

Gregory, who’s been with the Hiram Police Department for six years, stated, “I’ve waited a long time to work under someone like Chief Samec.” From his first meeting Samec shared, “We’re a team, and we’re going to climb this hill together. When we’re through I won’t be standing in front of you, we’ll be standing side by side at the top.”

Gregory credits Samec with making major advances in Samec’s four years as Police Chief in Hiram. Samec has improved vehicle safety by providing in-car cameras, and updated radar and speed equipment. Under his tutelage, officers have had valuable training opportunities and updated personal safety equipment like tasers and body armor, thanks to Samec’s tireless pursuit of grants to fund these important tools. “He’s worked tirelessly to make us better officers, which translates to a higher level of safety for the community, as well,” Gregory marveled.

In just last year alone, the prescription drug drop box program has kept over 140 pounds of prescription drugs out of the landfill and from contaminating local ground water. And the department is on pace to surpass that number this year. Residents appreciate the many community events Chief Samec has brought to Hiram, as well. From the ‘Hot Rod Car Show’ to the ‘Cops and Kids Fishing Day’ and bike safety events for kids, Samec has helped bridge gaps between police, residents, and the college community, as well.

“People come from Portage, Geauga and Trumbull counties to support our Pancake Breakfast each spring,” Samec beamed. “And while I know they like the pancakes, the fact that the funds we raise at our event are used to support our annual ‘Shop with a Cop’ program is what keeps them coming back. Last year, we made over $1,000 for the program, which brings Christmas to local disadvantaged kids and their families,” he added “I know he’ll be nearby, tutoring me along to help ensure these events continue,” Gregory acknowledged. “These community programs are like his babies.”

“I’m comfortable knowing that the department will be taken care of,” admitted Chief Samec. “My officers have been so supportive,” he added. “All our concern is for your health,” Sergeant Gregory acknowledged. The next six to twelve months are telling; if Samec has recovered sufficiently, he can return to service. “If not,” Samec added, “I’m confident that Brian is more than capable of filling the role.”

“When I returned to Hiram, where I began my career, I’ve been given the opportunity to live my dream,” Samec acknowledged. “I wake up each day excited to go to work, knowing what I do each day helps make the community better. I’m grateful to my wife for understanding my passion for this community, even when work calls come in at 3 am,” he joked.

“If I’m unable to return to duty, Samec remarked, “I want to thank the Hiram community and officials for believing in me, and for their support and trust. I’m grateful and appreciative to them for their kindness and support. “But either way,” Samec shared, in his characteristically optimistic manner, “It’s been a hell of a run, working with Team Hiram, the group of talented police officers, officials, and residents I consider one big family.”