Hanging up his uniform
For a little over 23 years now, Hank Carpenter has been a cheerful, calming presence in the halls of the Becker County Courthouse.
But as of today, you'll probably find him out fishing -- weather permitting, that is. Hank's last day as a bailiff for Becker County was Tuesday, May 31.
A native of Staples, Hank first moved to Detroit Lakes in 1982, after retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps.
"In the Marine Corps, I was stationed on recruiting duty in Fargo, and I used to come here to do a lot of fishing on the weekends," he said. "I got to like the area real well, so that's when I decided I was going to stay here."
Hank first came to work for Becker County in 1983, as a jailer.
"I got my part-time peace officer's license, and then this job as a bailiff became available, so I put in for it and got selected," he said.
Hank started as a bailiff in the county courthouse in 1984 -- and from that time until now, he says that it's been a great job.
"Even though it's my last day, I still looked forward to coming to work," he said Tuesday. "I've looked forward to it every morning, and that's the way I wanted to go out."
His favorite part of the job was the people, Hank said. "That's the thing I liked most -- working with the people here."
In fact, he added, he plans to make regular courthouse visits a part of his post-retirement routine.
"I'll be back around to visit, for sure," he said.
But Hank's immediate plans include working in the garden with his wife, Patricia, and as much fishing as he can manage.
"I usually have a pretty large garden, so I'll be working on that, and working around the property," he said, "and of course I'll be going fishing whenever the weather cooperates."
He said he's also going to enjoy having the freedom to take off on vacation "whenever my wife and I feel like traveling."
One thing he would like to do is return to the couple's favorite campground near the Black Hills in South Dakota.
"We used to really enjoy that area, but we haven't been on vacation for three years," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get back there for a few weeks in the summer."
He also hopes to be able to spend time visiting with family -- he and Patricia have five grown children between them, as well as seven grandchildren.
"We have plenty of family to go visit," Hank said.
Though he plans to enjoy his retirement, Hank said he'll definitely miss the people at the courthouse, some of whom have become good friends through the years.
"It's always been a fast-paced environment, but we all work close together," he said. "Even those who retired, or left before I did, when I see them again, we'll sit and talk... you never forget these people."
There are some things about the job that he'd rather forget, however.
"The thing I really won't miss will be having to attend the hearings on domestic abuse and dissolutions, and especially the CHIPS petitions (for children in need of protective services)," he said. "That was the toughest thing (about the job).
"I've never liked them (CHIPS hearings), because of the gravity of the situation they're in -- you never get used to that."
Through the years, Hank said, he has had a few potentially hazardous situations -- but thankfully, no shootings.
"We've had some individuals get argumentative in court, and we've had to restrain them and take them out (of the courtroom)," he said. "There's some we've had to take to jail because they wouldn't cooperate and settle down."
The only incident with a gun that he's dealt with, Hank added, was one time when a woman had a loaded weapon in her purse when she was trying to enter the courtroom.
"She was licensed to carry a weapon," he said. "She had just forgot it was in her purse. So I took it away from her until after the hearing.
"We've had a lot of cases where people got into arguments outside the courtroom, and we've had to restrain them," Hank continued. "Some of them were quite challenging.
"We've even had a few that have taken off -- but it was a very short time before they were brought back into custody. We'd just call dispatch and they put it out on the radio. The Detroit Lakes Police Department and the sheriff's department both respond, and they don't stay loose for long."
As he reflects back on his years with Becker County, Hank said, "After all the years I've been here, I still looked forward to talking with the people I've worked with every day. I'm going to miss them, but at the same time, I'm going to be enjoying my retirement."