Sarah Godfrey Shutts


Sarah Shutts has been a Federal Probation officer for eight years. Taking that job was the biggest risk she ever took but, she explains, she hasn’t regretted it for a single day. Even though her education was not in law enforcement, she went into her initial interview armed with an open mind and a sense of humor. She beat out all the new hires in the Plattsburgh, Albany, Syracuse, and Binghamton offices to win “Rookie of the Year”. While proud of the award, Shutts is prouder still that her co-workers have faith and trust in her “That’s invaluable to me,” she said.

Current Business & Job Title: United States Federal Courts, Probation Services Technician
Hometown: Plattsburgh, NY
Age: Later in my 30’s than I’m willing to accept
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration
Community Involvement: Special Olympics Polar Plunge participant, Reading Between the Wines Book Club member

What important lesson have you learned in your career?
I’ve learned that I am a better when I don’t bring my work home with me. This profession can be heavy at times. We occasionally see and hear distressing, traumatic things. My dad is a retired New York State Trooper and that was his advice. He was right. It’s a battle to not become jaded. I had to learn to shut off that part of my brain after work. So, I live by the work hard/play hard philosophy.

What’s the single most important characteristic for success?
Humility. Never believing that you are “too good” for any project that is asked of you. There is no job, no task, that is beneath you and your qualifications. Once you start believing that you are above it, that’s when you regress and devolve. In the workforce, I believe the worst thing you can say is, “That’s not my job”. I believe you need to make it your job, if only to help your colleagues and your organization.

What’s your biggest professional success?
Being asked to supervise a caseload. Up until then, my role had been purely administrative: docketing cases, fingerprinting, drug testing, etc. That same year, I ended up winning the district wide award for “Rookie of the Year”. Our district covers the Plattsburgh, Albany, Syracuse, and Binghamton offices, and that award had never been given to a non-officer position before, so it was a real honor. Since that time, I’ve also become a back-up court operations specialist, another duty that no one in my position has had. Being given those responsibilities has shown me that I am trusted to handle them. That’s invaluable to me.

How do you contribute to the culture of your company?
I make every effort to treat the people who are in our system with dignity and respect. Remembering your humanity and the humanity of others, especially in the criminal justice and law enforcement field, is immensely important.

How has COVID-19 impacted you professionally and personally? What are you doing differently?
Thankfully, I was able to continue working through the shutdown. I spent a month working at home exclusively, and it was difficult to feel like I wasn’t contributing enough. I’m currently in the office part-time, so I feel better. Personally, the shutdown shook me. I am a very social person, and not being able to be with family and friends, worrying about them, that was disheartening. Even just having the little things taken away—grabbing a morning coffee, meeting a friend for happy hour, window shopping—losing those things was tough. But it’s made me appreciate the minutiae of daily life in a much bigger way. And watching the community come back to life has been inspiring; I just love walking through downtown and seeing the sidewalks full of people supporting local businesses. It’s extraordinary.

What’s your dream job?
I believe I’m close to it: making a positive difference in people’s lives. I just want to leave the world a little better than I found it. Of course, the less evolved part of my brain would say that my dream job is winning the Powerball and becoming a cast member on the Real Housewives of Plattsburgh!

What is something that no one would guess about you?
I think most people would be surprised to find out that Metal is my favorite musical genre. I absolutely love it. I only listen to it when I work out, though… otherwise I get too keyed up.