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Wolf retires: After 16 years of service, Wolf is leaving the Stark Co. Commission

Duane "Bucky" Wolf moved to adjourn his final Stark County Commission meeting Tuesday morning with a final pound of the gavel. Wolf is retiring from the commission after 16 years of service, opening up his district 3 seat to be voted on next week...

Duane "Bucky" Wolf wrapped up his final meeting on the Stark County Commission after 16 years of service. From left to right: Commissioners Jay Elkin, Pete Kuntz, Duane Wolf and Ken Zander. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
Duane "Bucky" Wolf wrapped up his final meeting on the Stark County Commission after 16 years of service. From left to right: Commissioners Jay Elkin, Pete Kuntz, Duane Wolf and Ken Zander. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

Duane "Bucky" Wolf moved to adjourn his final Stark County Commission meeting Tuesday morning with a final pound of the gavel.

Wolf is retiring from the commission after 16 years of service, opening up his district 3 seat to be voted on next week.

All four of the other commissioners took a moment to share their sentiments to Wolf during the meeting before later presenting him with a watch they pitched in to get him.

"His experience and his knowledge on many different things, on the jail, on whatever you want to bring up in the county, he has the knowledge and experience there, and that will be really missed," Chairman Russ Hoff said. "That's almost irreplaceable, it really is."

Wolf was on the board before any of his fellow commissioners joined serving as a mentor to them all, commissioner Jay Elkin said.

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"I'm going to miss him," Elkin said. "He's been a tremendous asset, not only to Stark County and the community of Dickinson, but to us commissioners as well. Just a tremendous asset."

Wolf requested that he remain on the women's prison board through the end of the year, despite no longer being a commissioner because he wanted to ensure that the new commissioner on that board has a smooth transition. The prison, which has been operating about 14 years, is Wolf's "baby," he said.

"I like order, and I like to see it get done orderly and not cause trouble with a new guy coming in or whatever," Wolf said. "I want him to understand what he's getting into."

The board agreed and asked him to continue to be an advisory contact for the board and commission for issues relating to the prison among other topics despite no longer being a voting member. Wolf agreed.

Wolf grew up in Dunn County earning the nickname "Bucky" when he was playing junior legion baseball. His friend was significantly taller than him, a big buck he called him. His coach later began calling them Big Buck and Little Buck, and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

After growing up on a ranch, Wolf enlisted in the U.S. Marines after he graduated from high school at the tail end of the Korean War. He served abroad spending time in Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam as part of the Marines' amphibious forces. He served as part of the "president's own police force," traveling to wherever there was trouble in the world, he said. For example they were sent to the Suez Canal when enemy forces tried to block it, he said.

He returned to the U.S. for the final year and a half or so of his enlistment, serving as security for a military base in Washington state as well as a Naval brig. He was discharged just short of completing his four years to return home and help his family when his father died.

Though his initial plan was to spend his career in the military he never returned. Instead he got an associate's degree in Minot before getting his bachelor's from Dickinson State University. With few jobs available, he decided the police force was his best bet for employment noting his experience working in security in Washington.

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He spent more than 37 years working for the Dickinson Police Department, eventually working his way up to chief of police. He served in that position for eight years before he decided to try something new, Stark County Commission.

He heard the incumbent commissioner may not seek reelection in 2000, so he decided to run. Though the incumbent did end up running, Wolf beat him. He has not had a challenger for his seat since, he said.

His advice for his fellow commissioners is to work together and continue to stay informed. Ultimately he said he will miss being on the commission having had some second thoughts about retiring his final weeks. He said he enjoyed working as a problem-solver for the community.

"I have had a long service," Wolf said. "I have had a good career, and I've been fortunate to have good people working with me, and I experienced all you guys come aboard, and you've grown a lot in your ability and willingness to do this job, and I think the county is in good hands."

He said he is proud of what the commission has accomplished since he joined noting that it never spent money that it did not have. The commission completed North Dakota Highway 10 among other large building projects in that time.

"I guess the proudest thing I am of my service here in the 16 years is that when I came aboard things were really tight," Wolf said. "A mill was worth $30,000. This next year it's going to be worth $212,000. That's because of a rise of property values."

He plans to head to Arizona for a few months on vacation, but aside from that he has no concrete plans, noting he wants to ease into retirement. After his wife died 12 years ago being a commissioner gave him a purpose to get out of bed every morning, he said. But he plans to read and socialize in his free time.

Wolf said he has been lucky to have been surrounded by great people who helped him to lead as successful of a career as he did. His fellow commissioners said they planned to continue turning to him for advice.

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"You've been a mentor of mine and a friend for many many years, and I think back on your career, your life and your dedication to public service... that to me is a tribute to Mr. Wolf's character and his concern and his compassion for public service, and so I would just like to say thank you," said commissioner Ken Zander. "Come around occasionally and keep us in line, would you?"

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