Law enforcement has been part of Ed McMcMahon’s life for nearly 30 years, the last 26 in the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Although he married a young lady from Wilmington, McMahon’s career began hundreds of miles from the southern city.
Born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, Ed McMahon’s family moved to Connecticut when he was a small child. Another move took the family to Massachusetts, where he graduated from Palmer High School, near Springfield. Ed and his wife Teena got married in 1982, while he was working small jobs and attending college.
“I actually ran a motel in Lake George, New York,” McMahon says. “I kind of managed it with my mother, father, and when we first got married in 1982 I took Teena from here to upstate New York and we worked in a hotel.”
McMahon also worked with a friend managing a carpet business in New York, until one night his wife asked him an important question.
“I was 28 years old, had two children and my wife Teena looked at me and said ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, kind of trying to knock some sense into me,” McMahon recollects. “That’s when I said, ‘I’d like to be in law enforcement, like a state trooper’. Growing up I thought it would really be neat to be a detective.”
Seeing an ad on television for the Vermont State Police, McMahon thought it was time to give it a chance. He was one of 500-plus applicants for 22 open positions, and recalls finishing about 24th on the list. He was determined to get in.
“I kept calling the recruiter,” McMahon says. “One day he called me about two weeks before the academy started and said ‘we’ve had a cancellation, and even though you’re not next, you’ve called me every other day, so I’m offering you the position if you want it’. So, Teena said, ‘go ahead’.”
McMahon went to a live-in academy about an hour away from the family’s home, and in 1988 became a Vermont State Trooper. It didn’t take long for him realize the potential dangers of the job.
He recalls the story of riding along with a training officer, responding to a call from other troopers needing assistance. On the way to the scene, a deer jumped out onto the road and totaled the cruiser.
“It should have killed me,” McMahon said. “I think my training officer might have reached up and grabbed me, because the deer came right through the passenger side. He (the training officer) had to pull me out of his side.”
Three years later, as he was about to become a Senior Trooper, an opportunity came up for McMahon to join the Sheriff’s Office in New Hanover County.
That was in 1991.
McMahon proceeded to work his way up the chain of command, and in 2007 he was promoted to Chief Deputy under then-Sheriff Sid Causey. McMahon admits to being naïve about the political side of the office.
He changed political parties to be aligned with the Sheriff, not realizing at the time it would one day bring criticism if he would seek the top job. Causey retired in 2009, and recommended McMahon for the top job. McMahon was appointed, and voters elected him in 2010 and 2014.
“I don’t want to be political,” he says. “When you pick up the phone to call 9-1-1, I’ve never in almost 30 years heard someone say ‘I need an independent, I need a republican, I need a democrat’. They say ‘I need help’. That was my mentality. I have desperately tried to be non-political, and just be everybody’s sheriff and do the right thing.”
Ed McMahon is also a cancer survivor, beating testicular cancer in 1990. He smiles broadly when talking about his family, two children and six grandchildren. McMahon says the newest members of his family have changed his perspective on law enforcement and making the community safer.
“When you have those grandbabies, and you have one going to the elementary school, and you have them in the neighborhood, and you have someone shooting a gun a house down from where your daughter, son-in-law and babies are, that brings everything really to home,” he says. “This is my community too. It makes things much more personal.”
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