Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh continued her string of firsts this past weekend at the 44th Annual Thomas J. McGinley Awards Banquet and Conference in Greensburg, Pa.
Welsh, Chester County’s first female sheriff and the first woman to serve on the executive board of the National Sheriffs’ Association, became the first sheriff in the state to receive the Thomas J. McGinley Memorial Meritorious Award. It recognizes outstanding and dedicated service to the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Pennsylvania (DSAP), which holds the conference each year.
“I was genuinely surprised and very humbled to receive this award; it is a privilege to serve with the 67 sheriffs in Pennsylvania,” said Welsh. “The 2,300 deputy sheriffs in the commonwealth are some of the finest in the nation. I am deeply honored.”
James Lee, executive director of the DSAP, said he was pleased to see Welsh get well-deserved recognition. He said he was also happy that no one handed him Welsh’s resume before he made the announcement.
“We try and keep these programs moving,” he said, joking that reading Welsh’s accomplishments would have dominated the evening. “I didn’t prepare my remarks; I just spoke from the heart about the many ways in which she has supported the DSAP.”
Lee said the award began in 1997, a year after the death of McGinley, who founded DSAP and became its first president. Since then, the recipients have all been deputies. Lee said he told Helen McGinley, the founder’s widow, that Welsh would be this year’s recipient and she suggested her late husband would be pleased, noting that “Sheriff Welsh never did anything halfway.”
In its early years, the DSAP had no connections to the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, despite sharing common goals, Lee said. Welsh, a former PSA president, helped change that, he said, adding that the two organizations now enjoy a collegial relationship that has benefitted both sheriffs and deputies throughout the state.
During her nearly 20-year tenure as sheriff, Welsh has broken numerous gender barriers. Shortly after being elected in 1999, she became the first woman to be elected president of a graduating class at the National Sheriffs Institute at the Department of Corrections in Longmont, Co. In July 2009, Welsh was sworn in as the first female president of the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association. In January 2011 she was the first female elected to the Board of the National Sheriffs Association, which oversees more than 3,000 sheriffs across the nation. She currently serves on the NSA’s executive committee as first vice president, the first woman to hold that post.
This year’s DSAP conference was held at the Ramada Hotel by Wyndham in Greensburg, Pa. It was hosted by the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office.
Photo Caption: Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh is flanked by James Lee (right), executive director of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Pennsylvania, and Larry Shuga, the DSAP chaplain and last year’s award recipient.