Posted 3/20/13 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Ron Rankin has been in the field of law enforcement for roughly 44 years, the last 6½ of which have been spent as McKenzie County’s Sheriff. However, effective July 1, 2013, Rankin will officially retire as McKenzie County Sheriff and bring to a close his long career in the field of law enforcement.
Rankin got his start in law enforcement as an M.P. and Criminal Investigator for the United States Marine Corps.
He spent the last three years of his military career stationed in Hawaii. When he retired and moved to North Dakota, he states that he had never been so cold in his life. He also states that of all the places he has lived, he had never met a group of friendlier people.
“When I first moved here in 1984, everyone still waved while they were driving,” states Rankin. “One day when Dee (Rankin’s wife) and I were new to town, she turned to me and asked if I knew all the people who were waving at us. I told her that I had no idea who they were or why they were waving.”
Rankin states that though he had never heard of Watford City before serving 22 years with the city’s police department, it turned out to be a wonderful place to live and raise his children.
“People here judge you for what you are. People here are truly judged, as Martin Luther King said, by the content of their character,” Rankin states.
In 2006, the position of McKenzie County Sheriff became available and Rankin put his hat in for the running.
“When I first took over as Sheriff, I had four deputies and life was good,” states Rankin. “It isn’t that the work was easy - in fact it was very challenging, and we had to work hard to keep up with it. But we could keep up with it.”
About three years ago, the bottom fell out for the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department and for Rankin.
At the same time that McKenzie County’s population was starting to drastically increase, Rankin began a legnthy battle with cancer. And it is that battle that has caused him to retire from the position of McKenzie County Sheriff.
“My health will not allow me to devote 100 percent of my efforts to the position of Sheriff and the county deserves a Sheriff that is not distracted by health issues,” states Rankin. “I love what I do. I love getting up in the morning, but my body has started saying, ‘no.’”
Rankin states that he went from being in charge of four deputies to 14, and according to the McKenzie County Job Development Authority, the population of McKenzie County went from 6,000 to roughly 15,000.
“The change from nice, peaceful McKenzie County to the way things are now was so abrupt. The biggest change I’ve seen during my time as Sheriff is in the volume of traffic,” states Rankin. “Every day I seem to talk to someone new and they tell me a horror story about driving. It’s frustrating that I can’t reduce that.”
In the same light, Rankin also expressed frustration over the fact that the county’s emergency responders and his own deputies have been dealing with an increased amount of traffic deaths.
“We have had eight fatalities already this year,” states Rankin. “The ambulance crew and the fire department are trained in First Aid, and they are used to helping people. But they are not used to dealing with death on the scale that we’ve seen lately.”
Rankin states that his own deputies, though trained to deal with death in law enforcement, have been showing signs of stress due to recent traffic incidents.
When Rankin’s retirement officially takes effect, Deputy John Fulwider will take over as the county’s acting Sheriff until the next election in 2014.
While it is yet unknown as to whether Fulwider will choose to run for the position of McKenzie County Sheriff in 2014, Rankin states that any McKenzie County resident who does not have a felony record would be eligible to run.
As for Rankin, he and his wife plan on enjoying retirement, spending time together and with their children and grandchildren.