For retiring Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson, going into law enforcement was not something he'd ever imagined doing.
But Mickelson, who has spent 25 years with the Sheriff's Department, including the last nine as sheriff, said he's always supported the "good guys."
"When I was growing up, Westerns were popular," he said. "Every time you'd turn one on, the sheriffs and the good guys were always winning. I'd always be rooting for them."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson looks to the future after a 25 year career in law enforcement, nine of those as sheriff. Mickelson plans on doing some part-time farming and substitute teaching.
Before he was hired on as a deputy in 1987, Mickelson had spent nine years with the Webster County Road Department, and before that spent five years with Hormel.
Now, according to Mickelson, it's time for him to move on.
"I really want to spend more quality time with my wife and my family," he said. "I've got five grandkids and my mother that I really want to have more time with."
Although he's retiring from the Sheriff's Department, Mickelson will still be seen in the area. He already has a number of part-time jobs ready for him once he hangs up his uniform.
"What I mainly plan on doing is substitute teaching," he said. "I also might be doing some part-time work with juveniles in the court system."
Mickelson said he worked with juvenile offenders before he was elected sheriff.
"It was a very rewarding experience," he said. "I love helping them to see that there's other options. It's all about helping them get through and seeing that they don't end up in further trouble."
In fact, Mickelson said he considers his work with children the highlight of his career with the Sheriff's Department.
He began working with the DARE Program shortly after he was hired as a deputy, and has spent most of his career in that position.
"I wanted to have the students realize that somebody in law enforcement is no different than their parents," he said. "We're there to serve and protect."
Mickelson recalled the first time he ever went to school as a DARE officer in Burnside.
"I was going to the fifth-grade wing of the building, and I had to walk through the senior high wing to get there," he said. "The first time the senior high students saw me, they started saying, 'Oh, send me to jail,' and a couple of them even put their hands on the lockers like they were about to be arrested. They weren't used to it."
Mickelson said that mentality has pretty much disappeared.
"As years went by, I started making friends with the students," he said. "The students would come up to talk to me and some even started giving me high fives as I walked by."
Years later, Mickelson said he still sees his former DARE students throughout the community.
"It's gotten to the point where we're seeing officers, deputies, jailers and clerks that were my DARE students," he said.
He added that it's hard to describe the feeling of being a DARE officer unless someone has been through it.
"I wish every officer could spend some time in the schools to see how much they're appreciated," he said. "They'd understand how I feel when I talk about it. I get invites to graduations, and I've been the subject of appreciation programs."
His ultimate goal is to let young people know they don't need to fear law enforcement.
"Sometimes you'll see a parent tell their kid, 'be careful, he'll send you to jail,' when they see an officer," he said. "You want your kids to know that if they're in trouble, we're somebody they can come to. We're there to protect, not to put the cuffs on them."
Mickelson said as sheriff he's most proud of developing relationships with other law enforcement agencies.
"We're working so closely with other departments when it comes to training and sharing resources," he said. "There's benefits to being able to work well with all law enforcement agencies, and it's rewarding to see how we work together. And in the near future, we'll be doing even more together."
Mickelson also offered advice to Sheriff-elect Jim Stubbs, the department's current chief deputy.
"Be prepared for the unexpected," he said. "This is definitely not a 40-hour-a-week job."
As sheriff, he said, not everybody will be happy with all decisions.
"Learn to delegate, because he'll need to do that," Mickelson said, meaning Stubbs. "And continue to have strong faith, because that will get you through a lot that won't be so good."
Mickelson said he feels fortunate to have been elected sheriff, and thanked the community for trusting him.
"I'm proud of my time spent here," he said. "I'm going to miss the people I work with, and it's going to take me awhile to wind down. But I'm going to enjoy the new aspects of my life."