While the National Association of Counties recently recognized Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story for his leadership in transforming the county jail into the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, Story said this week that he could not have done it alone.

“It’s important to me that everyone realizes that although the award is in my name, this really is an award for the county,” said Story during an interview Tuesday, July 26. “This was a real team effort.”

Story was honored with the 2011 County Courthouse Award for Innovative Governance during the 76th annual NACo Conference and Exposition, which was held in Portland, Ore. July 15-19.

A NACo press release detailing the honor stated that Story was selected as the rural category winner by a panel of judges, who recognized Story “for his dedication to improving the lives of County of Waldo residents, including his leadership to transform the county jail into a successful reentry center which includes a volunteer mentoring program and other support services.”

The NACo release went on to praise the reentry center and its programs.

“The new center has exponentially increased job placement and community service by residents of the facility and initially lowered recidivism rates to 15 percent,” stated the release.

“On behalf of the nation’s counties, I commend Sheriff Story for his outstanding leadership in improving jail diversion through the inclusion of county residents in mentoring positions,” added NACo President Glen Whitley of Tarrant County, Texas. “The initiatives he has led will benefit the County of Waldo for many years to come.”

The 32-bed re-entry center began operating after taking in its first residents in Jan. 2010, according to VillageSoup archives, and is housed in the former Waldo County Jail. The building was converted as part of a statewide consolidation of state prison and county jail systems. The facility is considered a pilot program. Residents of the re-entry center are selected from among a pool of eligible inmates nearing the end of their prison sentences, with a preference given to those deemed at high risk for returning to prison. The center only accepts men, and sex offenders are not allowed.

For the success of the reentry center and its programs, Story credits past and present county commissioners, and in particular Commissioner Bill Shorey. Story said Shorey “deserves a big hats off” not only for his work toward establishing the reentry center, but also for his help in getting the reentry center garden off the ground. The MCRRC garden is located just past Cross Road on Route 141 in Swanville.

In addition, Story praised the work of past and present jail administrators, the county’s partnerships with Volunteers of America and the Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast as well as local employers and service providers.

“If I wanted to do this, I couldn’t do it by myself,” said Story. “Not without these partnerships.”

And, Story said, the work of the county and its partners continues to attract attention. Story said he has since learned that the International Corrections and Prisons Association is also recognizing the work of the VOA staff, and that a national reentry center organization is touting county staff for their work toward setting up the MCRRC.

MCRRC Program Director Michael Tausek, said Story, has been invited to make presentations for both organizations about the process of transitioning the jail into a reentry center.

While the MCRRC has brought great changes to the county’s approach to corrections, Story said the reentry center and its programs are still a work in progress.

“We’ve certainly learned a lot going forward,” said Story of the transition. “And we’ll keep dealing with any issues we run into along the way.”