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New faces for Lee Sheriff’s Gulf District

December 12, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

About three weeks ago, the Lee County Sheriff's Department promoted two individuals - a district captain and a lieutenant - for the Gulf District, which serves Pine Island.

The Gulf District covers Captiva, Useppa Island, Cabbage Key, Cayo Costa, Boca Grande, Pine Island, Matlacha, as well as portions of Burnt Store. The Gulf Marine unit and the Agricultural Unit are also a part of the Gulf District.

"Geographically it is a big district," Gulf District Capt. Joe Poppalardo said. "I truly love the district because there are unique challenges."

Article Photos

Gulf District Capt. Joe Poppalardo, Gulf District Lt. Matthew Herterick and Gulf District Det. Jason McHenry at the Pineland Lee County Sheriff’s Office sub station.

The Gulf Marine Unit, he said, is a large part of the district because a lot of the area that they cover is surrounded by water. Poppalardo said he has worked with the Marine Unit and the boats for a long time, which is beneficial because he has the experience.

Although law enforcement was not his initial path, Poppalardo made it his career 33 years ago because of the passion that grew in that line of work. He has been with the Lee County Sheriff's Department for 23 years.

The motto Poppalardo has stuck with throughout his career is "treat people as you want to be treated."

The new captain was a resident deputy on Captiva for 18 years, before he was in charge of Fort Myers Beach on spring break. He is also a hostage negotiator. Although he has had a lot of accomplishments throughout his career and held different jobs within the Sheriff's Department, he said his goal before he retired was to become a captain, which took place in November.

"Being in charge of the Gulf District is the peak of my career and I work with some good team members," Poppalardo said. "It was a nice journey to get here for me. The journey along the way I have truly enjoyed."

He said he is fortunate to have the ability to work with some really talented people. Poppalardo said working with people of that caliber really shows how committed they are to the community the serve.

Another individual to receive a promotion in November was Matthew Herterick. At the age of 35, he was promoted to lieutenant.

"I believe law enforcement is a calling," he said. "You truly have to be a people person."

That calling came to him while he was a senior in high school working at a bank in Providence, R.I. While working, the bank was robbed and he saw first hand how police officers make a difference in the time of need.

In 1999, Herterick started with the Lee County Sheriff's Department as a road patroller. From there he became the school resource officer for two school years at Lehigh Middle School.

"I found I had a passion for kids," he said, which led him to monitoring sex offenders.

His journey then led him to working the Major Crime Unit to monitor sex crimes for adults and children. Herterick then went back to patrolling as a sergeant.

Over the past 13 years he has learned a lot about himself because of the self-reflection that has taken place, as well as the ability to meet people.

It's all about interacting with an individual at their worst moments, Herterick said, in order to restore peace out of the chaos that is taking place.

Another promotion at the Pineland Sheriff's Office sub station also took place.

Approximately two months ago Jason McHenry was promoted to the Gulf District detective.

"I definitely enjoy doing my job, being out here and interacting with the community," he said.

McHenry began working for the Lee County Sheriff's Department seven years ago.

He attended Penn State and then transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University when his family moved to the area 12 years ago. He said he studied psychology and criminal investigation.

"It's an extra tool to have in your tool belt," he said of psychology. "It allows you to understand where someone is coming from."

His first position occurred in North Fort Myers before he began patrolling the Pine Island area.

"I patrolled for four years, which helps a lot because I got to know the community," McHenry said.

The spark of interest occurred while he was in college and had an internship within the field that he truly enjoyed.

So far his favorite part of his journey is his job right now because of the investigative aspect.

"You see the whole picture," McHenry said.

He said he enjoys pulling videos and developing a case to try and figure out the order in which it all occurred.



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