KENT COUNTY, Mich. - Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma is retiring from law enforcement after more than four decades of service.

Stelma on Thursday wrote a letter to the Kent County Board of Commissioners announcing that he plans to retire on Nov. 1, 2018. Stelma was elected sheriff in 2000 and has been re-elected four times.

The West Michigan native joined the sheriff's department in 1972. Now 69, Stelma lives with his wife and two daughters north of Cedar Springs.

"I can no longer devote adequate time to both the Sheriff's Office and my family; and the next generation of leadership is ready and willing to move the organization forward," Stelma wrote.

The decision to step down has weighed heavy on his heart, Stelma wrote.

"After a lengthy season of prayer and consultation with family and advisors, I believe the time is now and that it is in the best interest of my family, the organization and the community to step aside from the Office of the Sheriff."

Stelma in 2017 was named Sheriff of the Year by the Michigan Sheriff's Association.

A three-member panel consisting of the Kent County clerk, the Kent County prosecutor and the chief judge of Kent County Probate Court will meet in upcoming weeks to appoint a successor.

Kent County voters in 2016 elected Stelma to a four-year term. His appointed successor will fill out the remainder of that term.

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