New sheriff started off in life wanting to fly, today he’s McHenry County’s top cop

Events of 9/11 changed Robb Tadelman’s trajectory and led him into law enforcement

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman speaks Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to a class in the Ted Spella Leadership School at the Algonquin Village Hall, 2200 Harnish Drive, in Algonquin.

The new McHenry County sheriff didn’t always want to be a police officer much less the county’s top cop. He wanted to be an airplane pilot.

But the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States, caused a shift in former undersheriff Robb Tadelman’s plans.

On that fateful day, still in college at Western Michigan University, he watched with the world the unfolding of the attacks and the mass destruction that killed thousands of innocent people.

Through it all, what he noticed most were the first responders helping people. He said he was affected by their “heroism, bravery, selflessness.”

“Watching the horrific events unfold and seeing men and women step up to do what they took an oath to do” changed the trajectory of his life, he said.

“I thought, ‘OK, that is more my jam,’ ” he said, and he added criminal justice as a minor to his college courses.

He combined his love and natural talent for flying with criminal justice in the hopes of becoming an air marshal.

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman listens to  Algonquin Police Chief John Bucci speak Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to a class in the Ted Spella Leadership School at the Algonquin Village Hall, 2200 Harnish Drive, in Algonquin.

But at that time, in response to the 9/11 attacks, a great influx in people were applying to become air marshals and the job required at least two years of work in law enforcement. To meet that requirement, he took a job with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office in January 2004, and he said, “I just stayed.”

Now at 42 years old and after nearly 20 years serving the sheriff’s office, he is the top cop. It is a position the now retired Sheriff William Prim began grooming him for since the day in 2016 Tadelman jokingly said his goal was to one day take Prim’s job.

Prim, who retired last week after 40 years in law enforcement, supported Tadelman through his career and the primary race he won against Tony Colatorti in June, Tadelman said.

He was unchallenged in the November election.

“I have had a really fortunate career here,” said Tadelman, who is the first police officer in his family.

That career has included working as an evidence tech, field training officer, SWAT team member and detective.

“I have been rising through the ranks and really enjoying it here,” he said. “The air marshal [plan] fell by the wayside, and I enjoyed what I was doing.”

Today, he and his wife, who he married in 2005, have two daughters, ages 10 and 12, and live in McHenry County as do his parents and sister. Growing up, Tadelman lived in Morton Grove and Hoffman Estates. He attended William Fremd High School and after college lived in Palatine until moving to McHenry County in 2004.

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman speaks Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, to a class in the Ted Spella Leadership School at the Algonquin Village Hall, 2200 Harnish Drive, in Algonquin.

They made McHenry County their home and he said he enjoys being present in the county volunteering with groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters McHenry County, serving on its board and participating in the Lunch Time Littles program. Before COVID-19 hit, he often visited his daughters’ school in uniform and read to the students.

He hopes activities like these, which he encourages his deputies to do, will help children learn they can trust police officers in a time when police are under attack.

“That is how we start,” he said. “When I was a young kid, I don’t think the DARE program was successful, but it was important to be in front of the kids as a police officer. Never as a kid would I talk back to a police officer. Now that is the first thing that comes out. Where did we go wrong?”

He said he looks forward to building trust, serving and protecting the county and said he will be transparent with residents, his staff and other police agencies in the county.

City of McHenry Police Chief John Birk, who has long supported Tadelman but remained neutral during the primary, said, “Politics aside, Robb is the right person for the job.”

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman talks with Algonquin Police Chief John Bucci Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, before speaking to a class in the Ted Spella Leadership School at the Algonquin Village Hall, 2200 Harnish Drive, in Algonquin.

Birk said he worked “some of the most complex” cases with Tadelman over the years as part of the McHenry County Major Investigation Assistance Team.

“I could not be more proud to call him sheriff of McHenry County,” Birk said.

Tadelman said his management style will be to “empower” his nearly 400 employees and encourage them to speak up for themselves.

McHenry County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, who was reelected to her second term in November, said she looks forward to seeing what Tadelman will do for the county.

“Given his experience and the fact he worked with many different people around the county, he will be open to change and listening to other ideas, new ideas,” Wegener said. “I met him at a couple of different events, and he is just very personable, down to earth. I think he will be a great person in this role.”

Wegener said she likes the way the sheriff’s office is addressing mental health issues and rolling out body cameras for deputies.

“I’m glad they are taking that step forward, for not just citizens but for the safety of police officers too,” Wegener said of the body cameras.

Tadelman said he is excited to see completion of the new training facility and shooting range in Cary and to bring in new recruits to serve in top roles at the sheriff’s office, including city of McHenry Police Cmdr. Ryan Sciame and Algonquin Police Chief John Bucci.

Bucci, 50, who has worked at the Algonquin Police Department 23 years (where he met and married his wife Algonquin Police Detective Amy Bucci), will be sworn in on Jan. 3 as the undersheriff.

Sciame, who will serve as chief of corrections, also will be sworn in Jan. 3.

Like Birk, Bucci said he has crossed paths with Tadelman many times over the years and is “truly honored” he was asked to be his undersheriff.

While working in Algonquin, Bucci learned to lean on the support and knowledge of those within his department as well as those in other departments.

“Whatever problem you have you learn quickly you are usually not the first person to have that problem,” Bucci said. “Don’t be afraid to ask somebody for help. The biggest thing I learned from (the late Algonquin Police Russell Laine) was just because you are running the department that doesn’t mean you don’t need help or you should be afraid to ask for help.”

He is looking forward to bringing those lessons and his approach to his new position at the county level, he said.

Tadelman said he has worked some of the most notable cases in the county including the 2019 shooting death of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner and the 2014 Holiday Hills shooting by Scott Peters that led to the death of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Maness.

“It’s a career that definitely tries you, and it’s not fun some days. It really isn’t,” Tadelman said. “But at the end of the day, we take an oath to protect our neighbors, our families, our friends. For me that is always what it has been about.”

Have a Question about this article?