Posted 12/09/14 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
When McKenzie County Sheriff John Fulwider takes off his badge at the end of December, it will mark the end of a 37-year career in law enforcement, including 34 years serving the citizens of McKenzie County.
The original plan for about eight years was for Fulwider to retire together with his colleague, Sheriff Ron Rankin. However, plans didn’t go accordingly, and Rankin had to leave because of medical issues in July 2013. Fulwider then stepped up to fill in Rankin’s spot in the Sheriff’s Office as the Sheriff.
“When Ron left because of medical issues, John stepped up and took control,” said Ronald Anderson, McKenzie County Board of Commissioners chairman. “He has taken us through probably the toughest time we will have as far as law enforcement is concerned. He had to transport prisoners all over western North Dakota because our jail was not functional.”
Throughout Fulwider’s service, there have been several highlights during his career in law enforcement, specifically with the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office.
“There have been so many highlights,” said Fulwider. “After 34 years, everything kind of blends together.”
According to Fulwider, the biggest highlight of his career, however, has been the opportunity to serve the citizens of McKenzie County and the county commissioners.
“Especially, the county commissioners,” said Fulwider. “They have been so obliging in what we have needed as a county and have provided adequate law enforcement for the care and safety of the citizens of McKenzie County.”
Standing out amongst Fulwider’s many accomplishments and highlights are two awards he received. One was the North Dakota Peace Officer of the Year for 2000-2001, and most recently, the 2014 McKenzie County First Responders Award.
“The 2014 McKenzie County First Responder Award is probably one of my most appreciated awards,” said Fulwider, “because it came from the people of McKenzie County.”
With retirement in the very near future, Fulwider wishes the best to the newly-elected Sheriff, Gary Schwartzenberger, who will officially take his position Jan. 1, 2015.
“I wish Gary all the best of luck,” says Fulwider. “I hope he knows what he’s got himself into. There are a lot of responsibilities as Sheriff of McKenzie County, but I know he can do it.”
Fulwider consulted with both candidates who ran for Sheriff in this most recent election, on what they felt the needs were for the county, and both knew there needed to be a big increase in manpower.
“Our biggest concern was the welfare of the citizens of McKenzie County and providing the necessary safety,” said Fulwider. “We’re very appreciative to the county commissioners for seeing the needs and approving that budget, allowing for the extra manpower for the welfare of the residents of McKenzie County.”
Once retirement takes place, Fulwider looks forward to taking a couple weeks off, and then has a job already lined up in the oil field to help supplement the retirement he’ll be receiving from the state. Not only is Fulwider looking forward to some time off and a change of pace, his family is as well.
“They see what McKenzie County is facing right now,” said Fulwider. “And over the years, I’ve taken away from family time due to the job and working many weekends and nights. But they’re very proud of me. They know it’s time for me to start another chapter in my life. They’ve been very supportive in my decision.”
Fulwider has been married to his wife, Brenda, for over 33 years, and together they have three sons and one daughter. He looks forward to having a little more time to spend camping and fishing with his wife, family and friends.
“My position as a Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff is not about me,” said Fulwider. “It’s the people. I represent the people and employees of the county. It’s never been about me. It’s about the people of McKenzie County. And I hope I’ve made a difference. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my fellow officers. I just hope I made a difference.”
“McKenzie County residents will never know how much difference he made at a tough time,” said Anderson. “I thank John for stepping up when we needed it.”
To honor Fulwider’s 34 years of service to McKenzie County, a Retirement Party is planned for Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Watford City Civic Center from 1 to 3 p.m. The public is welcome.