Clare County Review & Marion Press

Faces in the Crowd: Clay Dougherty

For those who’ve happened to swing by Marion Schools over the last couple of weeks, there’s a good chance they’ve seen one of the newer faces at the school: Clay Dougherty.
Clay, a 2011 Farwell graduate, was recently hired to be Marion’s School Resource Officer, in conjunction with his work as a police officer with Osceola County.
And he loves it.
After spending time working in juvenile homes, corrections, and as an officer with Clare County, Clay feels like he’s right where he needs to be: Working with kids, doing what he can to help guide them down the right path.
While safety and security and enforcing the law are big parts of his job, his favorite part of the job is the kids. Talking with them, listening to them, and building a rapport that will last – hopefully – until well after those kids have graduated.
We caught up with Clay recently, and learned a little bit more about his story, his role at Marion, and his life outside of work. We learned that Clay Dougherty is certainly more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised? What kept you busy growing up?
Clay: I was born and raised in Farwell; went to Farwell schools and graduated in 2011. I played quite a few different sports. In high school I did golf, bowling, and track and field. My first job was at Culver’s, when I was 16 and still in high school, so that kept me pretty busy too.
MP: Is law enforcement something that – as a kid – you always knew you wanted to get into?
Clay: It wasn’t. It always had to do with helping people though. When I was probably 15 or 16, I started volunteering as an explorer in high school – which was a program, way back in the day, that was put on by the Boy Scouts. We worked with the sheriff’s department here in Clare County. We got to do ride-alongs and different things like that to kind of get a taste of law enforcement.
MP: After graduating from Farwell, did you go right into law enforcement?
Clay: I kind of went back and forth. The classroom setting’s not really for me, so it took me a while to get through college. In the meantime, I continued working at Culver’s for a couple of years after graduating. From there, I started working in houses for juvenile delinquents. Working with at-risk youth that were either in trouble with the law, or they didn’t have a good home life. I graduated from Kirtland Regional Police Academy in Roscommon in May of 2021.
MP: What have you enjoyed the most about your job as a police officer?
Clay: I think just getting out, and getting to know the community. Being able to help people. A lot of times, law enforcement, we see people on their worst day. And at the end of the day, we really want what’s best for them.
MP: You’ve only been there for a couple of weeks, but how has your new job as Marion’s Resource Officer been going?
Clay: I love it. Kids have kind of always been my [favorite to work with]. To backtrack, I’ve also worked in corrections for a couple of years, and worked as a reserve officer with Clare County. And being able to work in an adult correctional facility, and being able to work in homes for juvenile delinquents… I think that the younger you can help someone see the [light at the end of the tunnel], it’s easier to steer them in the right direction, and give them the tools that they need so that they can have a productive life.
MP: Tell us a little bit about your role at the school, and what all that entails.
Clay: First and foremost, I’m a law enforcement officer, so it’s dealing with the law. Obviously, safety and security is a big part of the job. But being a school resource officer is so much more than dealing with students with bad behaviors: vaping, or drinking… Being a school resource officer is almost like having another counselor in the building. Somebody that – when the kids are having a bad day – they have someone to talk to and listen to them. I’ll spend recess outside with the elementary kids, and play soccer with them. A lot of the kids will ask me to swing with them. It’s just about building rapport and relationships, and giving the kids another outlet.
MP: Has there been a positive reception to having you there?
Clay: Yeah, so far. The first couple of day, sometimes police officers can be intimidating – especially for the younger kids. The first few days of school, they didn’t really talk to me, they just stared at me. But by the end of that first week, you have all the elementary kids running up and giving you hugs, and the kids at the high school are giving you high fives and fist bumps. I’m excited. My school resource officer had a lot to do with me being in law enforcement, and so it’s really cool to be in those shoes myself now, and to help the schools be safer.
MP: And you’ve been with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Dept. since last May. What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of that, and now being a part of the Marion community?
Clay: As far as the sheriff’s office, everyone is so friendly and welcoming there. They’re willing to work on things with you, and show you new things. The overall teamwork there is definitely one of my favorite parts. And everyone in Marion has been very welcoming. The school and the community both felt that having a resource officer was something that was needed.
MP: Outside of work, what keeps you busy? What do you enjoy the most about living in this area?
Clay: I have a daughter, Ryleigh, so she keeps me pretty busy. She does basketball, t-ball, and girl scouts. Other than that, I do a lot of kayaking; I love being out on the lake. I run a lot of 5k’s. I like to stay active and be outside. I just really like the small-town atmosphere; that probably comes from being born and raised here.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Clay: It’s not any specific one thing that’s been said to me, but it’s always been drilled into me: “You’ve got to work for what you want.” You can’t stay stagnant; you’ve got to always keep working to improve yourself – whether it’s your personal life, or work life, just all around.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Clay: My liaison officer [at Farwell], Erica. My grandma, Linda, she was very hard working; she’s always kind of been the family babysitter, and she’s been a big part of my life. The guys that I’ve worked with over the years. Especially being 16, and starting in Explorers, and being introduced to law enforcement that young. The encouragement, and the push, and the willingness to teach others.

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