ASHLAND — One of Ashland’s best-known detectives said farewell Tuesday to a group of people who have become her second family over nearly 25 years.
Friends, family, co-workers and victims she’s helped over the years gathered for an informal, and, at times, emotional, retirement celebration for Kim Mager at Foundation Plaza on a hot, sunny Tuesday.
But Mager’s “retirement” won’t last long.
On June 1, she starts a new job at the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office as an investigator. She will work alongside Tony Shambaugh, who moved up to chief investigator when Doug Smetzer retired in March.
It’s a move that didn’t surprise her co-workers, who described Mager as someone with a strong work ethic who deeply cares for the people she served as a detective.
“She has worked relentlessly to be an advocate for children and we really do appreciate the things she’s done for the children in this community,” said Ashland police Chief Dave Lay.
Mager helped create the division’s Shop with a Cop program around 20 years ago, Lay noted. She also had a hand in establishing the Reach Out Cops and Kids program in March.
Ashland Mayor Matt Miller described Mager as “a mother to all of our little children in their toughest times.”
“You have been compassion in the face of being a detective,” Miller said, addressing Mager.
Her co-workers shared caring words, but also left Mager with some parting gifts. She received a retirement badge, a ladies’ edition thin blue line watch and her law enforcement badge, encased in blue lucite.
The police division re-assigned two patrol officers to the detective division to fill her role, Kara Pearce and James Coey.
Detective Lt. John Simmons said Pearce and Coey were able to start in those roles about a month ago, giving Mager time to train them.
“Kim will be greatly missed — the advice that she passed along, the knowledge she had about cases,” Simmons said, moments before presenting Mager with a plaque engraved with “Kids Do Matter.”
Captain Craig Kiley said he asked Mager for her ID, keys and badge earlier, but that she said she “wasn’t done working.”
“Most of us don’t want to work up until that last minute — but she has some ‘unfinished business’ … and we’re very thankful for her service to this community,” he said.
One of the victims that Mager helped over the years also spoke. Her name is being withheld from this story to protect her identity. She said many people talked about Mager’s work ethic.
“I’m here to say that I’m here today because she’s good at her job,” she said.
Mager said she’s heartbroken.
“I love what I do so much,” she said.
She said she’s excited for the new gig, but she also will miss what she’s been doing for nearly 25 years. She will continue to hold a police commission through the sheriff’s office.
She said she tried to close all of her cases — it was her goal before starting the new job. A couple need some follow-up work, she said.
“But for the most part I’ve closed all my cases, that way I’m not saddling all the other detectives,” Mager said.
Mager started her career at Ashland Police Division in September 1997. Before that she worked at the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office for three years and another three years in child protective services.
She graduated from Ashland University with a degree in criminal justice in 1991.
She’s held different roles with Ashland police, including as a crisis negotiator. Her niche developed when she joined the division’s detective unit as a forensic interviewer, a role that involves gathering information for crimes that involve children.
As an investigator with the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office, Mager will be working with cases that come into the office, which involves working with law enforcement.
“Her eye for detail and her good rapport with law enforcement will be invaluable to this office,” said Chris Tunnell, the county prosecutor.