Sheriffs of Haakon County date back to 1914

Since its beginning in 1915, Haakon County has been watched over by a number of dedicated sheriffs. Prior to the November 1914 election that divided Stanley County, the sheriff traveled from Pierre when needed.

Fred Root was elected the first sheriff of Haakon County in 1914 and was sheriff until 1917. Root was voted county sheriff again in 1922, and served until 1923. He was originally from Keystone, but moved to the area in the early 1900s. Root started out ranching near Powell. He was the director and manager of the State Farmers Union Oil Company in Philip for several years. Root also had the agency for Big Bull tractors in Haakon County.

After Root, F. M. McCoy served as sheriff from 1918 to 1919. McCoy was the first register of deeds for Haakon County before he served as sheriff. He wrote the starting records of Haakon County dating back to Febuary 19, 1915.

In 1920, Frank Slocum stole the sheriff title of Haakon County. Slocum was an early pioneer who ventured to the Philip area in 1894 from Chicago, IL. Before starting as county sheriff, Slocum rode the old 73 range that was managed by Scotty Philip. He grew lots of alfalfa, and it was said to be some of the best in the west. Slocum's first term as sheriff lasted only until 1921, but he served again from 1934 to 1937. Along with his sheriff duties, Slocum owned a livery service and ranch near Philip. He was the first Philip man to buy an auto license, and was particularly interested in Philip's economics.

Next up for sheriff was John Currington. He was elected sheriff in 1924 and served until his term ended in February of 1928. He was voted sheriff again from 1930 to 1933. Currington moved to South Dakota in 1888, when he was only 16-years-old. He brought cattle to the Bad River in 1893 and helped drive cattle from Texas all the way up to Buffalo Gap. He wintered in a dugout on the spot that was later known as Severin's Campgrounds. It was not long until Haakon County had several men eager to run for Currington's sheriff position.

In March of 1928, five men ran for Haakon County sheriff. Henry Hudson, James Louison, Martin Hanrahan, Harry Swisher and Ben Carr each wanted the position. Swisher came out with the most votes by far, and served as sheriff of Haakon County until 1929.

Ed Pearson decided to run for sheriff next, and had quite a list of other men vying for the job. Pearson ran against six others in the primary election. When it came to the general election in November, Peason captured more votes than his opponent Currington. Pearson was sheriff of Haakon County until 1941.

When John O'Reilly ran for sheriff of Haakon County, he beat out his one contender, Ted Williams, by nearly 100 votes. O'Reilly was county sheriff until 1945.

After O'Reilly's term was up, Jack Dean served as the Haakon County sheriff for two terms. By law, Dean could not run again, after serving for half of the year in 1950.

In January of 1950, Paul Ratigan was appointed chief of police of Philip. Ratigan also was a night man. Ratigan held the city police job for years, and also served as deputy sheriff. In November of 1950, Ratigan ran against Chet Hovey and O'Reilly. Ratigan pulled ahead of the others in the election with the most votes. The election was close, with Ratigan only winning by 11 votes.

Harry Burns was Haakon County sheriff for two terms. He won the election of 1954, and was part of the democratic party. Burns was sheriff until his resignation in 1962.

Matthew "Mike" Schofield decided to run for sheriff of Haakon County in 1962. Prior to that, he was a deputy in Midland. When Schofield won the sheriff title in '62, he moved, with his family, from Midland to Philip. During his time as sheriff, Schofield had to drive his own car while on duty and furnish his own insurance coverage. Schofield and his wife, Thelma, had eight children. While living in Philip, Thelma was the cook for the county jail, and Schofield delivered the meals. The Schofield's had a small acreage outside of Philip where they milked cows and raised chickens and hogs. Schofield enjoyed the farm animals and put up a little hay every year. He had a way about him that made people think, "he already knew what had happened," and they might as well not stray too far from the truth, if they were in the process of confessing something. Schofield remained sheriff of Haakon County, until his death in March of 1985.

Danny Gartner was hired as the new sheriff of Haakon County in April of 1985. Gartner was raised in the Milesville, Quinn and Philip areas, and graduated from Wall High School. He was in the United States Navy for four years after graduating high school. Gartner spent several years doing construction before entering the law enforcement area. Prior to his sheriff title, Gartner worked for the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Gartner announced his resignation from sheriff in May 1994.

Jim Pelle was next in line for sheriff. In 1995, Pelle ran against three others, Walter Omdahl, Hugh E. Harty and Michael Young. Pelle came out on top winning the Haakon County sheriff title by 172 votes. Pelle remained county sheriff until 2002.

Larry Hanes was the most recent Haakon County sheriff. Hanes started as sheriff in 2003. He ran against Hugh E. Harty in the November 2002 election. Before he was sheriff, Hanes was a police officer for the city of Philip as well as a deputy sheriff for Haakon County. Hanes is a member of the Philip Ambulance Services, the local emergency planning committee and is emergency medical technician certified. Hanes is married and has two sons. Hanes' sheriff position ended this summer, 2010.

The upcoming county sheriff is Mel Smith. He will serve as sheriff of Haakon County starting January 1, 2011. He ran against Mark Foley and Justin Schofield and received the highest number of votes. Smith is from the Grindstone area, and has lived near Philip his whole life. Smith has been a Haakon County commissioner in previous years, and is a board member of the Bad River Rural Water System. Smith and his wife, Beth, have four children.

Looking back on the past sheriffs, it appears as though Haakon County has had a trail of dedicated sheriffs over the years, and hopefully many more to come.