CASSVILLE, Mo. -- For a little more than a year, Justin Ruark's life-long dream of becoming a law enforcer came true when he put a badge on a Barry County deputy's uniform.
"I grew up, my dad had a scanner on his desk and it was on 24/7, and I was always sitting there listening to it," said Ruark.
In January, however, he'll have to take off the badge that he worked so hard to earn. Ruark is one of four deputies who will be laid off in the new year.
Voters in November turned down a 3/16-percent sales tax measure that would have helped the cash-strapped department.
The sheriff says the organization will do the best it can under the circumstances.
"The times are tough. There's not a lot of money out there, and we have to stretch it out for the whole county. I just don't think that law enforcement is the place to be cutting back," said Sheriff Mick Epperly.
The sheriff and his deputies handle every kind of criminal situation imaginable. The department is one of several agencies that was charged with investigating the high profile case of 9-year-old murder victim Rowan Ford in 2007. In a matter of weeks, though, there will be only 15 deputies left to grapple with all the cases and crimes throughout the county.
"Barry County is around 800 square miles, roughly, and also takes in Table Rock Lake, takes in thousands of acres in the Mark Twain National Forest," said Epperly.
As a life-long resident of Barry County, Ruark knows every square mile. Naturally he's disappointed about his pink slip, but he has offered to be a reserve officer for the county.
Although with six kids to support, he knows he'll have to find something with a paycheck soon. He hopes it will be in the field he loves so dearly.
"With a little bit of luck and a little bit of prayer, I'll be able to find something before too long," said Ruark.
In addition to the deputies, three part-time jailers will also be let go in January because of budget constraints.