Decades of dedication: Billings Co. Sheriff Pat Rummel retires
"When Pat spoke everybody listened," Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee said.
MEDORA, N.D. — After 32 years and eight months serving and protecting the people of Billings County, the past eight as sheriff, Pat Rummel recently retired. Rummel was inspired after a childhood of watching his dad, Arnold Rummel, serve the Western Edge community.
“My dad was the Dickinson Rural Fire Chief for many years. He did a lot with the fire department, doing rescue squad and other firefighter stuff,” Rummel said, adding that Highway Patrolmen and other officers frequently stopped by the house to speak with his father. “Since I was a little kid I was able to go to different functions at different departments, working on trucks and such at the firehouse office.”
After graduating from Trinity Catholic High School in 1985, Rummel approached his neighbor, Henry Weber, who was a Captain with the Dickinson Police Department at the time. Weber helped him get a job as a dispatcher. Rummel was part of the second class to graduate from the UND Police Academy in 1988. He’s kept in touch with a few of his classmates, one of whom is a police captain at NDSU in Fargo and another is a chief deputy in Mercer County.
After Dickinson he spent some time as an officer in Jamestown, Rummel began work as a Billings County deputy in the early 90s.
Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee praised Rummel as a mentor he’s leaned on frequently for advice. He noted that Rummel served with him on the City of Dickinson’s advisory panel to select a new police chief.
“Pat was kind of the epitome of being a sheriff. We all kind of looked up to him in our Sheriffs Association. When Pat spoke everybody listened. You just knew there was a lot of knowledge and history there,” Lee said. “I think that respect still lives on. And there's gonna be a lot of us who continue to contact him.”
Rummel said staffing is always a challenge when providing round the clock service to a sparsely populated county.
“I was very fortunate. We’ve always had good people,” he said. “When I first started we were doing probably around 300 calls a year, and when I left it was right around 1,500 to 1,600.”
He noted that technological advancements have drastically improved the speed and efficiency of response times through the span of his career.
"When I started there was no addressing system... Go to that corner and turn left type of deal. So you had to know where everyone lived," he said, adding that officers sometimes had to stop and ask a resident to borrow their landline and get more details about a call. "The other thing too is the radio system at that time wasn't that great."
Rummel’s wife Keri helped convince him that it was time to step away and focus on his hobbies because being a sheriff is more of a 24/7 job than 9 to 5. He’s excited to get out on the water and do some walleye fishing at Lake Sakakawea.
“I started back in 1985 with the Dickinson Police. Since then I basically missed a lot of birthdays, Christmas, holidays… and a lot of fishing,” Rummel said, adding the decision to step away was made much easier once he convinced his Chief Deputy and longtime friend Dean Wyckoff to run for the office.
Wyckoff grew up on a Billings County ranch and worked at TRNP during summers in college, then graduated from Dickinson State University. Working as an officer for the National Park Service took him across the country to South Dakota, Ellis Island, Iowa and back to Medora in 2011. After several recruiting attempts by Pat, Dean retired as Chief Ranger in 2018 to work as a deputy. They had known each other for many years from Dean’s time as a district ranger at TRNP in 1996.
“He was always very fair and always tried to put himself in other people’s shoes. I just kind of looked up to that over the years,” Wyckoff said. “That really resonated with me how he was able to do that, just his overall management style too. I just think he did a really good job.”
When asked about the highlights of his career, Rummel noted one of them was traveling to the White House and meeting then President Trump in 2018 for a law enforcement summit discussing illegal immigration.
“I don't think it gets covered quite as extensively as it should be, and the impact that it actually does have. I think it really gets downplayed on the national level,” Rummel said. “Especially down in those southern counties, talking with sheriffs, I mean it's just unbelievable the amount of money and resources they have to spend trying to keep their areas safe.”
The seasoned law enforcement veteran explained that he noticed a tangible increase in the number of incidents involving criminal aliens, noting two major crimes occurring within a couple weeks of Biden taking office. This included a high speed chase that spilled over from Montana and an attempted theft.
“The ones we were having were definitely multiple offenders. And it just seems with the change of administration there was a lot more of it. That was where the numbers just went crazy,” he said.