BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Wednesday marked the end of a long line of service in Boone County.

It was the last day on the job for Sheriff Dave Ernest, but he was not the only long-time public servant calling it a career. Everyone at the event was there to support three men who spent their entire careers keeping the county safe.

“Gentleman, thank you very much for all your years of service to this community, everything you’ve done,” said Boone County Chair Karl Johnson. “It just can’t be put into words.”

One hundred and thirteen years in the Boone County Sheriff’s Office was celebrated Wednesday evening. The community honored the retirements of Ernest, Chief Deputy Perry Gay and Superintendent of Boone County Jail John Hare.

“We are overwhelmed. This has been a crazy ride for us,” Ernest said. “I feel so blessed to serve the community that I grew up in. When you think you’re making a difference and everyone around you is making a difference, you’re going to continue to do that.”

“All those people helped me with my journey through my career, and we always worked together as a team to accomplish every single goal that we did,” Gay added.

“It’s made our department that much better,” Hare said.

Many improvements and changes have been made throughout the years that the three men served, but one thing that never changed was the reason they served.

“Well, I just feel like I’ve always had a calling to serve,” Gay said. “I love serving the community, I love people and I love doing things for people, and that’s what’s always driven me.”

“During the years we built a new jail facility,” Hare said. “There was just a lot of challenges, a lot of things happening that I enjoyed.”

The three men said that it was an honor to go out together after working alongside one another.

“For us three to go at the same time like this at the end of the sheriff’s term, it’s time,” Gay said. “We’ve all been here a long time. It’s time for a new chapter. We have faith in the staff that’s coming in, and it’s been an honor to serve with them.”

Recently elected Scott Yunk will take over as Boone County Sheriff.