After a 34-year run with the West Fargo Police Department, officer Doug Mack has decided to call it a day, a move that will free up valuable time he now plans to devote to following his grandchildren's activities, as well as allowing for a few more trips to his favorite fishing hole at the Jamestown reservoir in search of crappies.
Looking back over a colorful and ever-changing four decades, Mack said he has no regrets and if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn't change a thing about his varied career path.
Born into a large farm family of seven boys and five girls at Pettibone, N.D., Mack grew up there, graduated from high school and then went on to attend barber college in Fargo, where he earned his master license before accepting a position 'barbering' at a Northport shop. He married his wife, Nola, right out of barber school and their two sons, Rodney and Randy, were born during his stint at Northport.
You might wonder, how did a professionally trained barber end up becoming a police officer?
For Mack the transition came easy.
He always dreamed about being in law enforcement, but also wanted to barber, so he ended up trying the latter first. "I barbered for about eight years and then discovered I couldn't live on $2.50 a haircut," Mack said. "So I decided I better make a change."
That first change involved managing Brookwood Mobile Home Park in West Fargo, where the Mack family lived for many years in their first home on F Street.
It was while serving as manager at Brookwood that Mack came upon an ad in a local newspaper seeking a Police Officer in the small community of Edmore, N.D. He applied, got it, sold his home, packed the family and moved, and spent a year there.
Mack then completed basic training, earning his police officer certification and returned to West Fargo in 1974 where he was hired by the police department, first performing duties as dispatcher before being placed on patrol, working alongside such department icons as Chief Ken Hansen who continues to make his home in West Fargo, and fellow officers, Roger Whitehead, David Bruckner, Rolly Sandvig, and Don Jones, all deceased.
Mack spent a number of years as a patrol officer rotating in every shift imaginable, most recently serving as head of truck regulatory, enforcing load restrictions on city streets, the 72 hour parking ordinance, construction and mud debris, in addition to working traffic radar.
Mack described his last three-plus decades with the department as rewarding and amazing. "Both the job and the community have been unbelievable. And working with the department staff has been wonderful, it's like a big family. I'm not going to miss the work, but I will definitely miss all the great people I work with." Here he offers kudos for the whole staff, mentioning specifically current chief Arland Rasmussen, both a mentor and friend.
Rasmussen said the staff has been fortunate to have had Mack's committed years of service. "When you think of a police officer and that they are to be honest, trustworthy, and a pillar in society, officer Doug Mack was the epitome of these attributes. Doug may have been firm, but he was always fair. People that got to know him well found that he had a very big heart and cared a lot about his family, co-workers, friends, neighbors and community. Doug really is that pillar of society that we don't always find very easily today."
Reaching that respected status has been an ongoing process for Mack, and one arrived at through his ability to interact well within the community.
Consequently, a huge part of Mack's tenure has been his visibility and accessibility with city residents, that always included stopping and visiting with youth in the community and anyone else seeking his expertise, or just plain old conversation. It was not uncommon to see Mack drive through a neighborhood and stop and roll down his window for a chat with youngsters eager to visit with the well-known officer.
"I tried to build these kinds of relationships all over town," Mack said. "It is the best law enforcement you can have - for citizens to know you as a friend and not an adversary."
Toward that end, he also worked at as many civic events as possible, especially high school basketball and football games where he came to know the students and parents, and in the process, developing several long-lasting friendships.
As for physical change within the community and department, Mack has witnessed a large measure in the last 34 years. "When I started in 1974, I had no idea the city would be as large as it is now. Where West Fargo High School is now, is where the old airport used to be, and there was hardly anything south of 4th Avenue where the police department sits. Then it started to build in, and the city now goes clear south to 50th Avenue."
Mack said the growth was never a deterrent to the department. "Of course there was a lot more cars and traffic on the streets and a lot bigger area to patrol, but the department grew as the city grew. The department growth was based on the population of the community and I commend the Chiefs and the City Commissions for having the foresight for planning the way they did."
All in all, Mack is now looking forward to a more laid-back lifestyle. Relatively healthy, he was recently sidetracked by surgery after a recent bout with diverticulitis. He underwent surgery and lost 25 pounds, but is doing well and was back in the office Monday training his replacement.
Once he officially steps down May 30, Mack doesn't plan on letting any dust settle under his feet. His first week off will be strictly vacation, heading to the Jamestown reservoir for the earlier alluded to crappie fishing. Then it'll be working part-time at Adessa, where he'll be joining fellow friends and retirees in the driving pool involving auction cars. Mixing in with that will be more fishing and hunting for ducks, geese, and pheasants when seasons allow; and the most important aspect, spending quality time with his wife of 43 years and their children and grandkids. "We will finally be able to take in more of our grandkids activities," Mack said. "It's about time, the oldest will be a sophomore, and now that we have some additional time, we don't want to miss out on anything." Rodney and his wife, Jeana, and their two children Jared and Katelyn, live in Cavalier, N.D., where Rodney and Jeana both teach; while their son Randy, a pharmacist, lives in Minneapolis with his twin son and daughter, Adam and Alexa.
And if Mack gets really bored, he always has his barbering to fall back on, a love he now refers to as a hobby. He still maintains his license and does cut his two son's hair, but not his wife, Nola's, he said with a laugh. "She goes to the beauty shop."
Family and friends will be offering Mack the perfect retirement send-off Friday night, May 30, at the West Fargo VFW, with a special social hour from 6 to 7 p.m., and dinner and a program following, and you can be a part of it. Tickets are $15 each and available through May 26, by calling the West Fargo Police Department at 433-5500, or by mailing your request with a check payable to the City of West Fargo to: Officer Doug Mack Retirement Party, 800 4th Ave. E., Suite 2, West Fargo, ND 58078.