Police officers do not always get the respect they deserve but nominations for Jim Squance for recognition as Citizen of the Years prove a life of quiet, caring service to everyone in the community will bring not only respect but admiration.
Squance served in law enforcement for more than 40 years, retiring as sergeant after 33 of those years with the Oxford Police Department and then going to work for the Butler County Sheriff’s Department which led to his being the first School Resource Officer in the Talawanda School District.
Squance’s name drew nominations from former Miami University students citing times when he went above and beyond the call of duty to assist them with projects, the current Chief of Police who was helped in his own early years with the department and residents who cited his endless community involvements making Oxford a better place.
That “above and beyond” attitude was well illustrated in a letter from Phyllis Wilkins-Follick who told of being a single mom in the late 1980s and moving in next door to Squance’s home.
“Jim may be the kindest, most giving person, I’ve had the pleasure to know for so many years. …I hadn’t lived there very long when I became ill and had to have surgery. When I came home from the hospital, I found a get well card in my mailbox from my police officer neighbor, Jim Squance. Seems very simple, but it was so heartwarming for me. Later that year, I was really struggling to make ends meet as a single mom. Jim came to me and offered to cosign a loan to help me get on my feet. I was absolutely floored that this kind person was willing to help me and he didn’t really know me that well. It was certainly the beginning of a long friendship,” Wilkins-Follick wrote.
She went on to write she is now a grandmother of young children in the Talawanda schools and finds it comforting that he was there as SRO.
Gordon Tarver, now a broker-owner of Inlet Beach Realty in Florida, told of meeting Squance as a sophomore at Miami planning a fraternity event.
“I made my first call to Sgt. Squance to discuss an event we were going to have. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything necessary to ensure safety of my guys and also make sure I had some input from the community. He was so awesome. Said, ‘Why don’t you come meet me for lunch and let’s go through it all.’ I really cannot overstate the importance of someone taking me seriously at the time. A lot of folks rolled their eyes when you start mentioning a Greek event, not Jim. The thing I loved most about Jim is that if it is/was important to you, it was important to him. No questions asked,” Tarver wrote.
Tarver went on to tell of his friendship with Squance which included serving on his board of a Housing Corporation he was leading after graduation. The housing organization had fallen on hard times and he explained, “Over the next 10 years, Jim and I would completely revamp how the Housing Company operated. This was only possible due to Jim’s resources that as always were open arms to hope and would jump into action.”
Police Chief John Jones said he started with the Oxford department in 1998 and Sgt. Squance was his frontline supervisor. Jones said the honoree served as the department’s spokesperson or Public Information Officer, was the Community Oriented Policing coordinator and connected to the Oxford community. He helped younger officers deal with difficult situations and helped make the Pig Roast (now the Community Picnic) into what it is today. As the Talawanda SRO, he worked closely with Oxford officers to protect kids and build relationships throughout the district.
He continues to serve Talawanda by transporting students to school-linked healthcare partners.
Despite all that, the chief said Squance is deserving of recognition for his off-work public contributions.
“Early in my career, I would see Jim volunteer to serve in many aspects and he modeled the way for me and showed me what serving the community is really about. I remember Jim recruiting me to assist with ShareFest and spending some afternoons picking up furniture that would have otherwise gone into the trash. After I joined the Oxford Lions Club, I learned more about Jim’s leadership in service. Besides attending board meetings and raising issues of community needs, he would advocate for the club to spend money on specific programs for our community (such as the Oxford Literacy Team). Most recently, Jim helped coordinate the routes that the Lions covered for the Rotary Club’s Stars and Stripes program,” the chief wrote, adding, “I am also aware that Jim served on the TRI Board for many years and as a fraternity advisor, as well.”
In another former Miami student letter, Valerie Bishop related how Squance helped expand an after-school program for low-income kids into a summer camp program, providing meals and activities for the kids to provide a safe, healthy place for them.
“I had the privilege of continuing to work with Sgt. Squance while he served on the board of the Family Resource Center and headed up the Shop With a Cop program. I’m sure Sgt. Squance was all too familiar with the negative elements of living in poverty and chaotic homes, but he didn’t let those experiences turn him off to these kids: It motivated him to reach out to them and try to improve the trajectory of their lives,” Bishop wrote.