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Knoll says goodbye to sheriff's unit after 44 years

A retirement party was held Dec. 16 for Mike Knoll, who is retiring after 44 years with the sheriff’s department at the end of the year. Knoll is pictured with Emily Blomquist (left) and Christine Reed (right), Knoll’s girlfriend and Blomquist’s mother.

Mike Knoll admits he’s a rarity in today’s society. 

It’s not the 40 years he spent working full-time which ended Dec. 31. It’s the fact those 40 years were spent in one location--the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

“Not a lot of people are able to do this for this length of time,” he said. At the same time, the variety of what he saw every day kept him going.

“One of the positives is, in this kind of work, it’s not the same thing day-after-day,” he said. “You get a mix.”

Yet, when the time came to say goodbye, Knoll knew and was ready.

“For me, it was the right decision,” he said. “It’s different for everyone, but you know when it’s time.”

It’s safe to say Knoll will be missed by his fellow employees.

“He’s irreplaceable,” said Sheriff Nancy Hove, the sixth different sheriff Knoll has worked with. “He’s a wonderful employee and I wish him the best.”

And he will miss them.

“These are good people here,” he said. “They get it. They understand the mission.”

“Did what it took to get the job done”

The Ellsworth High School graduate went to school at UW-River Falls with the goal of becoming a teacher. To help pay for his education, Knoll took a part-time job with the sheriff’s department in 1969. Knoll must have liked those years, because on June 1, 1973, he became a full-time member.

Knoll has worked in nearly every unit throughout his time. He can remember a time when he worked in dispatch, when the bars closed, patrols were done as well, meaning if there was an incident after that, they had to call the officer at home.

“It was a different world back then,” he said, noting cell phones and cable television didn’t exist. “(Ellsworth) was a farming community, pure and simple.”

He also saw time as a jailer, patrolman and was a patrol sergeant until a conversation with former Chief Deputy Neil Gulbranson changed things. The two agreed someone was needed to supervise the Jail/Dispatch unit and Knoll volunteered to be the one. It’s a role he’s managed for approximately the last 20 years.

“Multiple roles were being juggled, but we did what it took to get the job done,” he said.

There were many challenges that arose over his time as jail lieutenant, with the building itself at the top of the list.

“The physical plant drives how you do your job,” he said. “You have to house people humanely, safely and legally because your father or mother could be housed there, and you’ll want to know.”

A second time

Excuse Knoll for not getting too excited about the current search for a new Pierce County Jail.

That’s because he’s seen it before.

Around the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, county officials deemed the current jail needed to be replace and that a new justice center should be built.

“The community was quite active and engaged,” Knoll remembers. “The meetings were civil and I think they were convinced (a new jail) should be built.”

The county board disagreed, setting the stage for today’s search.

Therefore, he knows the long road that is still ahead in today’s quest.

“The challenge is building the right facility for the county and for the community,” he said. “It makes sense to do it now.” Like the first time, Knoll believes the community is behind the idea for a new jail, but “when the first shovel is planted (for the groundbreaking), then I’ll believe it.”

Knoll says he’s unsure of what’s next for him.

“When the dust settles, I’ll see what presents itself,” he said.

There is one thing that is for sure. When asked will he miss the current jail, he gave a short, one-word answer.

“No,” with a big laugh.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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