May 1—A hush fell over the crowd of people gathered in the second-floor courtroom at the Davison County Public Safety Building Friday afternoon.
Many of those in attendance were dressed in the uniform of sheriff's offices from surrounding counties, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Mitchell Police Division. Others, including Davison County employees, were dressed in casual attire. But they were all there to celebrate the career of Steve Brink, who had served as Davison County sheriff for the last eight years.
Davison County Deputy Steve Harr raised his hand and said it was time for the last radio call for Sheriff Brink.
Brink took the radio and spoke, responding to the dispatcher on the other end of the line.
"I thought you were probably waiting for me to say something, so I better say something," Brink said. "I appreciate everything everybody has done. The dispatchers down there are great. I've had a great 25 years, but we've got some boys and girls coming up behind me. I'll be signing off now, but I'll be around. I'll be bugging them. But I won't be talking so stupid on the radio."
Laughter rose from the group, made up of family, friends and colleagues who worked with or for Brink during his 25 years in law enforcement. The gathering Friday saw Brink make his way around the room, shaking hands, sharing the occasional hug and more than a few smiles, laughs and memories.
He's had time to build those relationships. A native of Plankinton, Brink got into police work after his father wanted to retire from the business they operated together. He found a job working in the Hutchinson County Sheriff's Office for a few years before a deputy position opened with the Davison County Sheriff's Office in 1997. He applied and was hired, and he's been a fixture of the local law enforcement scene ever since.
"I put in up here and, by golly, they hired me and I went from deputy to chief deputy to sheriff," Brink told the Mitchell Republic. "It's quite a road, I tell you. It doesn't seem like it's been 25 years."
Over the years Brink took on more responsibility. He joined the Davison County Sheriff's Office in 1997 and became chief deputy in 2003. He remained in that role until he became sheriff in 2013 and had been in that position until Friday afternoon, when his retirement became official after informing the Davison County Commission in March that he would step down.
"It just got to the point where it was time for me to move on at 68 years old," Brink said.
Brink said while the job of sheriff can be demanding at times, there are aspects that bring immense satisfaction. He recounted the successful search for a missing boy a few years back, and he takes particular pride in watching out for children and helping them overcome difficult situations and circumstances.
"My big deal is helping kids, if that were with alcohol or sexual problems, things like that. We worked really hard on helping them. We helped everybody, but the kids were near and dear to me," Brink said. "And when you see some of them coming out and smiling and sitting on our lap and saying thank you, that's what made my day."
He has worked hard on making Davison County a safe place for its residents. That means remaining calm in the face of tense, sometimes dangerous moments until absolutely forced to act more aggressively, something he said his office has embraced fully in his time there.
"It's a simple thing. We're just going to be nice to the public until it's time not to be," Brink said. "Basically, you treat them decently, but if we have to, we'll do what we have to do. A lot of the time you can talk somebody down, and they're really pushing that now, and my guys are really good at it. Really good at it. But, if they don't listen, well, they're really good at that, too."
Harr, who was sworn in as acting sheriff at the same reception, said losing a leader of Brink's caliber is always hard, but the office was left in good standing by his colleague, who will be missed.
"It's been great (working with Brink). Steve and I have worked together for 21 years, so we pretty much know what the other is going to do before they do it," Harr said. "We've been co-workers, he's been my boss, he's been my friend through the whole thing."
Brink said the many sheriff's offices and other law enforcement agencies represented in the room Friday were all an extension of each other's own team. They all share the same goal of protecting area residents and enforcing the laws that keep the citizenry safe.
"It's amazing. We've worked with all these people. We have to. None of us have enough people to handle what comes up. And we're quick to jump in if they need us, or we need them," Brink said.
Crystal Reitzel, working radio dispatch, was the voice on the other end of Brink's last radio call. As the gathered crowd in the courtroom listened, she outlined Brink's career with the Davison County Sheriff's Office before delivering a more personal gesture of thanks from his colleagues.
"Sheriff Brink, we'd like to thank you for your dedicated years of service to the citizens of Davison County. Because of your actions, there are families that can enjoy spending holidays together. Sir, it has been an honor and privilege to work with you. As we bid you farewell from this job into your retirement, know that we will cherish our memories of working with you. You will be greatly missed. Enjoy your retirement, Sheriff," Reitzel said.
Moving on may have been an emotional moment, but with the staff he has in place, he knows the office is in good hands. And Brink has a few plans for retirement. With the weather warming up and summer around the corner, he's ready to spend more than a few hours in a boat on a lake in the sun.
"I do like to fish," Brink chuckled. "I have a good buddy and he's got a nice boat and he's ready to throw it in the water and we're going to do some fishing. I just have to keep busy. I'm not a sit-around guy. You sit around too long, next thing you know you're pushing daisies."