While in his early 20s, Michael Reitan applied for a job at the public works department in his hometown of Casselton. He didn’t get the job.
But he did get a call that would eventually lead him to Monday night, where he stood in front of the West Fargo City Commission flanked by his wife, Michelle, and mother June Reitan along with his father, Bud, and sons, Nick and Nathan.
Reitan recited the oath of office and officially became West Fargo’s police chief, joining only a handful of those who have served at the post before him.
“It’s an elite group,” Mayor Rich Mattern said Monday.
Earlier this year, the City Commission appointed then-Assistant Police Chief Reitan to take the post following Arland Rasmussen’s retirement June 20. Rasmussen served the city for 19 years.
At that time, Rasmussen said he knew he was leaving the department in good hands with Reitan at the helm.
The 1984 call Reitan received from the city of Casselton was a job offer for a police officer.
Reitan accepted and would eventually join the West Fargo Police Department in 1987.
Reitan was promoted to patrol sergeant in 1995 and became assistant chief in 2005.
Reitan was an honor grad from North Dakota Law Enforcement Basic Training and eventually earned a business management degree from the University of Mary.
For three decades, he served in the North Dakota National Guard before retiring as a chief master sergeant in 2009.
On Monday, his mother, June Reitan, said she didn’t expect her son would become a police chief, but she knew he was likely to go far early on.
“I knew he’d work hard at whatever he did,” she said.
His two sons also never doubted their father would earn the top spot on West Fargo’s police department.
Reitan’s youngest son, Nathan, will follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Air Guard this year, while his older son, Nick, studies at North Dakota State University. The two men said they were very happy for Reitan on Monday night.
His father, Bud Reitan, said he’s not sure how the law enforcement gene made it into the family, but he’s proud of his son and another son who serves as a police captain out of state.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, who attended the swearing-in ceremony on Monday, along with other members of the area law enforcement community including Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger, has worked with Reitan for his entire 25-year career.
West Fargo resident Laney said Monday that the city could not have a better chief.
“He’s going to represent West Fargo very well,” Laney said. “He’s just really easy to work with. He’s a consummate professional, and he’s just a walking textbook of knowledge for whatever you ask him.”
As Reitan slowly moves his things into Rasmussen’s office at City Hall, construction on the new facility is continuing.
The new police station will help accommodate the quickly growing force, which has swelled to more than 40 officers and could double in the next 10 years if the city’s population continues on its vertical trajectory.
Reitan said he is preparing for the growth of both but has not yet decided on a reorganizational plan, including appointing a new chief deputy.
The police currently has one chief deputy, one patrol sergeant and one investigation sergeant. Reitan said he would like to add an administrative sergeant who would oversee staff.
Reitan has been speaking to each member of his department individually to find out how each member would like to move forward in the future.
“The police department is really like a business that provides a service to the community,” Reitan said. “We need to keep our customers satisfied, just like any other business.”
And to keep the public satisfied, Reitan plans to keep services available now to the public on hand, such as vehicle unlocking.
Reitan said it’s also important that all calls to the department – from simple questions to complaints – are given a response.
The avid hunter and fisherman has also been very active in the community he loves.
Reitan was awarded the Exchange Club’s highest honor, the Book of Golden Deeds award in 2011 and he has been a longtime Boy Scouts leader, volunteer at Hope Lutheran Church and is active in the American Legion, International Association of Chiefs of Police and North Dakota Peace Officers Association.
Reitan also chairs the West Fargo Senior Committee, where he helped lead the way for senior meal service in West Fargo.
“I really like being involved in (this) community,” he said.