A Publication of WTVP

40 Leaders Under Forty

As field operations captain at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, Chris Watkins leads a team of 55 deputies, detectives and lieutenants and is directly responsible for a $5 million budget. He also serves as the Sheriff’s investigative unit lieutenant, supervising nine detectives and administrative personnel. Understanding that law enforcement is 95% communication, he uses this knowledge to build relationships throughout the community and to de-escalate, defuse and prevent potentially dangerous situations. He is well respected in the law enforcement and business communities and is considered the future of the Sheriff’s Office as well as the criminal justice system in central Illinois.

Captain Watkins has served as vice president of the police union and as a member of the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction SWAT team in Illinois. He is also a 10-year veteran of the United States Air Force who served in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. He has been named Peoria County Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year, among other awards and citations from the Sheriff’s Office and the Air Force.

Since 2019, Watkins has served on the board of directors at FamilyCore, a local nonprofit that works with schools, the court system and other social service agencies to connect counseling, intervention, preventative education and other support services to those in need. Whether training staff on safety and awareness or speaking to United Way organizations about the social and emotional needs of youth, he exemplifies caring and compassionate servant leadership.

Watkins is involved with many youth sports organizations, serving as head coach of Dunlap travel baseball, former director of Dunlap JFL flag football, and current board member of the Dunlap Recreation Association, mentoring and coaching young athletes both on and off the field. In 2019 he completed the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, and he is currently completing his degree in organizational leadership. He has also been a past board member of Greater Peoria Area Crime Stoppers. PM