Meagen Skelley’s law enforcement career began earlier than most. At age 14, Sgt. Skelley joined the local Explorer Post through the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. Fifteen years later, she achieved the rank of sergeant in the Sheriff’s Corrections Division.
Sgt. Skelley, 33, was encouraged to apply to the Explorer program by Wendy Guntert, her friend and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Sgt. Skelley showed an interest in law enforcement from an early age, but she wasn’t sure which facet of law enforcement she wanted to pursue.
As an explorer, Sgt. Skelley trained alongside Sheriff’s deputies for two years. She learned defensive tactics, how to operate in high-stress scenarios and life-saving techniques. She went on ride-alongs with deputies and observed police interactions with the public – everything from writing traffic tickets to arrests. But, the most memorable moment for Sgt. Skelley came when she and fellow explorers were tasked with a tactical training exercise known as “clearing a room.”
“We used airsoft guns,” she said. “It was so fun. Basically, we conducted a room search where we looked for the ‘bad guy,” who was a deputy for training purposes. We cleared the room and then found “the bad guy” who was hiding on the top shelf of a closet.”
The Explorer program was eye-opening for Sgt. Skelley whose only experience with law enforcement up until that point was watching police dramas on television.
“It gave me an insight of a more hands-on experience of the things that law enforcement go through,” Sgt. Skelley said. “At that age, it is all movies to you. That’s all you know. But when you are actually going through the training and watching videos and doing it yourself, it is much more hands-on than you realize and you get to know what really happens.”
Sgt. Skelley says her time as an Explorer solidified her interest in and gave her the confidence to pursue law enforcement as a career.
“I think the explorer post is good for youth,” Sgt. Skelley said. “It gives them something to do, a way to be productive. It keeps them out of trouble but also will give them an idea down the road if it is a career path they want to follow.” After graduating from Taconic Hills Central School District, Sgt. Skelley attended Columbia-Greene Community College for two years and subsequently received her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from SUNY Brockport. She interned at the Greene County Probation Department, where she learned the ins and outs of the court process and met with probationers alongside probation officers. She also interned with deputies at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2015, she applied to several Civil Service jobs and accepted the first position she was offered: Corrections Officer for the Corrections Division at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
“I never thought I would be in Corrections,” Sgt. Skelley said. “I initially saw it as a stepping stone. However, I like the aspect that all of your fellow coworkers have your back in difficult situations. We also have a great leader in our captain, Patrick Delaney. It is a comfortable atmosphere.”
She was quickly promoted to Corporal before reaching the rank of Sergeant. “We’re proud to have Sgt. Skelley among our ranks,” said Sheriff Donald J. Krapf, who promoted Sgt. Skelley last year. “Her leadership skills, determination and integrity were quickly recognized, and she is an asset to the facility, the Office and Public Safety as a whole.”
Sgt. Skelley enjoys being a leader and providing support to her fellow corrections officers.
“I like being able to progress in my career,” Sgt. Skelley said. “I tell people, ‘Don’t sell yourself short. If you think you have more to offer, take a chance and go for it.’ There are people who want to be a C.O. for the remainder of their career and that’s fine, but, if you think you have more to offer, do what it takes to continue.”