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Fair winds and following seas -- Stark County Sheriff’s Deputy ends 39-year career

David Wallace Sr. says he'll miss the uniform, he'll miss the camaraderie and he'll miss the day-to-day interactions he has with the public as a Stark County Sheriff's Office deputy. To him it was never a job; it was a calling--a profession in se...

Maj. David Wallace Sr, Stark County Sheriff's Office, will end a 39-year career in law enforcement on Jan. 1. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press
Maj. David Wallace Sr, Stark County Sheriff's Office, will end a 39-year career in law enforcement on Jan. 1. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

David Wallace Sr. says he'll miss the uniform, he'll miss the camaraderie and he'll miss the day-to-day interactions he has with the public as a Stark County Sheriff's Office deputy. To him it was never a job; it was a calling-a profession in service.

Wallace says it's always difficult to turn in the badge and call it quits on a nearly 40-year career, but the choice is even harder when the decision isn't yours.

"It's not my choice," he said. "The new sheriff is not appointing me to a position."

Wallace's gray mustache partially hid a quivering lip as the career public servant paused to regain his composure, reflecting on his experiences in law enforcement-both the good and bad.

He gave up a football scholarship as a linebacker at Dickinson State University to start a career in law enforcement in September 1979.

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"I was recruited from the university by the Dickinson Police Department, and tired of being a poor college kid, I accepted," Wallace said. "I went back to Dickinson State University after many years at the behest of one of my mentors, Hank Biesiot, and went on and got my master's degree at the University of Mary. It was important for my mother for me to finish my school and I'm proud that I did."

He began his career with the Dickinson Police Department before serving short stints with the Billings County and Dunn County Sheriff's Offices.

In 1988, Wallace returned to the Dickinson Police Department where he worked for the majority of his career.

"I was able to retire from the Dickinson Police Department before moving over to the Stark County Sheriff's Office to work with Sheriff Oestreich as a major within his department," Wallace said. "I'm disheartened because I had spoken with the sheriff-elect and discussed that I would work and do the job, but he opted that I would not be part of his department."

Wallace added, "This is probably the end to my law enforcement career."

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Reflecting on his modest upbringing in Burlington, Wallace detailed life as a teenager and one specific incident.

"I was not supposed to be in law enforcement-my mother had other plans," he said. "I always had to behave because my older brother was a deputy sheriff and he lived with us. You couldn't misbehave."

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"Growing up, every kid thinks that the girls are always better looking in the other towns. So one winter day, I went to Berthold in my friend's car, and I'm in town driving when all of sudden the car started to fishtail and my headlights hit this white Dodge in a parking lot," he said. "There's only one deputy sheriff who drove a white Dodge, my brother. Of course he stopped me and I explained what happened and my brother doesn't say much before saying, 'Ok, leave.' He should have written me the ticket; the scoundrel went home and told my mom."

Wallace said his mother was a kind-hearted woman who raised her family with traditional North Dakota values-values that Wallace has passed on to his own three children.

Wallace's most important role, according to him, has been that of a father and mentor to his three children who each have followed in their father's footsteps and serve with distinction in law enforcement and emergency services.

"Over the years they've seen the commitment you make, the time away from family," Wallace said. "They've all made that same commitment. Not only do they take the time to serve the citizens here, but on their time off they are also committed to serving the ambulance service. To see our kids following in our footprints is without a doubt a proud dad moment for me."

His daughter Cori Wallace is a patrolman with the Dickinson Police Department, his son Jason Wallace is a patrolman with the Dickinson Police Department, his son David Wallace Jr. serves the citizens of Stark County as detective sergeant of investigations for the Stark County Sheriff's Office.

"What more could you ask?" Wallace said. "You worry about them, but you understand that one has to do this. There are people in this community in a time of need, and I applaud my children for raising their hand and saying, send me."

ABOVE REPROACH

The law enforcement career of Wallace is one marked by a highly commendable and decorated service to the community. He is the recipient of multiple decorations and awards demonstrating a service beyond reproach.

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Over his career Wallace has been awarded the North Dakota Crime Prevention Officer of the Year, North Dakota Crime Prevention Program of the Year, Dickinson Women of Today's Officer of the Year, North Dakota Peace Officer Association's Life Saving Award, Dickinson Police Department's Exemplary Service Award and Dickinson Police Department's Distinguished Service Award-among a litany of other decorations.

"Receiving many of those awards were complete surprises to me," Wallace said. "I did know that I had been nominated and was at a loss for words when I received those awards."

Over the years, Wallace has been instrumental in the establishment and management of various community programs-programs that he says, "help offset the horrors of the profession."

"The hardest part of the job has to be dealing with death," Wallace said. "Calls that involve infants or children are the hardest, and so community relations programs help balance the bad with the good. They're important for keeping law enforcement from burning out."

Wallace has spent his entire adult life dedicated to community service. A ground floor coordinator of the Citizens Police Academy for the Dickinson Police Department, his program has allowed citizens to gain a better insight into how law enforcement works within the community.

As coordinator for the Counter Act drug program for the Dickinson school system, Wallace worked with youth by giving them vital skills needed to stay drug free. Another youth program he was an active volunteer for was the Our Kids Need to Know program, again aiding children in the community with life skills.

Wallace volunteered to serve on the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee where he helped the community solve local transportation issues.

The list of volunteer service is extensive, including programs like the Red Cross; Boy Scouts; refereeing sports for the High School Athletic Association; serving as an emergency medical technician, paramedic and ambulance technician; Patriot Guard motorcycle program; Best Friends Mentoring program; and much more.

AN EMOTIONAL FAREWELL

Wallace now lives near South Heart with his wife of many years, Susan.

When asked if he had parting words for his community, Wallace's parting words were choked with emotion.

"When the time to perform has arrived, the time to prepare has passed. It's not my parting wisdom, it's things that I've learned from people," Wallace said. "We all make mistakes, and even though others have made mistakes you work with what they've done. Give everybody a chance and encourage them just like they are your own kids. Always see the big picture, and never forget that we all need a friend."

“We all make mistakes, and even though others have made mistakes you work with what they’ve done; give everybody a chance and encourage them just like they are your own kids. Always see the big picture, and never forget that we all need a friend.” Wallace said. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press
“We all make mistakes, and even though others have made mistakes you work with what they’ve done; give everybody a chance and encourage them just like they are your own kids. Always see the big picture, and never forget that we all need a friend.” Wallace said. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

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