Each third Sunday in June, fathers are honored by their children for all of the life lessons taught which have shaped sons and daughters into who they are today. Some fathers may have taught their children how to ride a horse; while others coached them on the football field; still others instructed their children on how to change a tire. Then there are those who have inspired their children to follow in their footsteps — symbolic of the old adage, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
For Mitchell Mehrer, a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper, his dad motivated him to suit up and wear the badge of a law enforcement officer in another iterations of a longstanding career for the Mehrers.
Recently joining the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Mitchell Mehrer looks up to his father Lt. Eldon Mehrer, of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, and has wanted to be a cop since he was about 12 years old.
“Seeing what he has done with his career and how successful he has been makes me kind of drive and want to have the same goals in my mind,” Mitchell Mehrer said. “... It’s just really humbling. (Though) I don’t try to let it get to me too much, I use it as motivation in a way, knowing that I come from a family of law enforcement.”
As a fifth generation law enforcement officer, Mitchell Mehrer noted that his father’s experience in the field as well as his grandfather Gilbert Mehrer — a former chief deputy of the Hettinger Country Sheriff's Office — guided him to where he is today.
“With this job, you're going to fail and you got to own up to it. You’re going to make mistakes. We’re human. I know some people look at this profession that we’re perfect… (But) we’re still human (and) we’re going to make mistakes. We try to be as perfect as we can be,” Mitchell Mehrer said. “But we try to be as professional as we can and do the best job we can every day.”
Though he now works in Stark County, Eldon Mehrer served on the front lines for the North Dakota Highway Patrol for 28 years before retiring. To have a son follow in a father’s career path is admirable, he said.
“First of all, it’s just that great sense of pride that he chose a noble profession. And anytime you have a child that chooses to follow in your footsteps, it’s just a great honor and I’m very proud of him,” Eldon Mehrer said.
Being exposed to law enforcement on and off of the patrol scene, Eldon Mehrer said that his son grew up surrounded by good law enforcement officers as well as people.
Mitchell Mehrer, who is stationed in Williston, completed the academy in September 2020 and graduated in February. He has committed a lengthy amount of time and effort to receive an education but also getting through a tedious field training process, Eldon Mehrer said.
“... I think just through that spirit of osmosis he probably absorbed it. Hopefully (he’s learned) a lot of good things just by being around a lot of good people that are in law enforcement,” he said. “He’s had to do so many things on his own, just to get to where he’s at. And so, I know he has a great sense of self accomplishment because to get where he is, he’s had to achieve a lot of his own goals in order to do that.”
Like most fathers, there are always lessons to be learned along the way.
“The biggest thing is patience. You raise kids and especially when you’re a new parent, you probably learn as you go and hindsight being 2020, there are things I probably would have done better (or) maybe would have done differently. But the good thing is patience,” Eldon Mehrer said, explaining, “I think kids are smarter than we think, sometimes. If we have productive conversations, are willing to listen to their perspective, (have some) patience and make your perspective known to them... I think in the long run, they are very smart and intelligent and they probably see where you’re coming from if you take the time to explain it.”
With Father’s Day coming on Sunday, June 20, the Mehrers usually spend time at the lake cabin, fishing and rehashing life's memorable moments.
When asked what he’d like to say to his father, Mitchell Mehrer paused for a moment and said candidly, “He’s taught me a lot, and I love him a lot. And I know he’s always going to be there for me.”