cross this nation, a special group of people awaken every day and prepare for the job. Heroism takes shape when they don the uniform, strap on the belt and pin on the badge.
Because of them, we may rest or work feeling safe. Not foolishly secure, but safe. They are the men and women who choose to work in law enforcement and public safety. They move in harm's way to know the underbelly of a harsh society, to visit heartbreak, to walk the halls of the hospitals or jails, to ride the highways of danger and despair.
It may confound and astound at times when we say it: "We are a nation of laws, not men." Difficult to understand and to administer, but in a free society, it makes life work. Carried out, it is the backbone of civilized society. The heaviest load of courage and character rests in those who fight the big battles. Whether the laws are precise or justice is meted out correctly, our heroes are the divine spine of moral strength in this community and across the world.
Through murder, mayhem, violence, horror, tears, laughter, burdensome paperwork, sometimes physical and emotional pain and, yes, even boredom, they are on alert to serve - serve and protect. For this, they deserve our honor and respect.
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In Manatee County, we are blessed to have Sheriff Charles B. Wells, who personifies and gives shape to all of the attributes I describe here.
In fact, one of his assets is the ability to recognize and respect such qualities in others and to maintain the standard of excellence that defines his very career. How is it possible to be warm and loving with a smile that would melt your heart, yet convey a soul of iron will and resolve?
How do you reach down to pick up a child, reach out to console a prisoner or reach for a gun before the other guy?
Charlie Wells, I'm certain, acquired certain skills along the way, but always, deep down, had the stuff of which real leaders are made.
Headlines notwithstanding, Charlie has served us in the hidden and obscure corners of community life as well as in his dramatic accomplishments. His achievements in the areas of corrections, management, youthful offender programs and innovative concepts for service have received statewide recognition.
By no means is this an attempt to capture the essence of this man.
Fortunately, I will have that opportunity when I interview him on METV, Manatee Educational Television, which will air our visit in the coming weeks.
Yes, Sheriff Wells' farewell from office is April 2.
Personally, I must confess to our lengthy and rewarding professional association.
Most importantly, he is my dear friend, as he is yours.
Pat Glass, just retired from political office after almost three decades as Manatee County commissioner, writes every Wednesday to Herald readers about key issues and concerns with her unique insights. To reach her, write to her c/o Bradenton Herald Metro Desk, 102 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.