Career of service: Chief Deputy Mark May looks back at over 3 decades with the MCSO

Published 7:24 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

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When it came time to honor Mower County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark May on Tuesday during the Mower County Board of Commissioners meeting, it wasn’t a surprise that Director of Correctional Services and Austin Mayor Steve King stood up with some comments.

The stories he told were reflections of the views held by many others regarding May, who after over 33 and a half years retired on Friday. May has been viewed by many as one who would lend a hand whenever needed and who you always knew where you stood.

“I have been here for five years,” said Mower County Administrator Trish Harren during Tuesday’s ceremony. “They call him ‘Honest Mark’ for a reason. I really appreciate your professionalism and the opportunity to work with you.”

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On Wednesday, sitting in an office with blank walls and shelves devoid of items, May looked back on his time with the Sheriff’s Office where he worked his way up from deputy to investigations to the spot he currently held through Friday.

“When I first went to school I felt maybe business administration,” May said. “Nah, I don’t want to sit behind a desk. Law enforcement looks sort of intriguing.”

May continued, quipping: “You’re not stuck behind a desk, but eventually the last 20 years, that’s where I’ve been, behind a desk.”

Even though a bulk of his career has been serving Mower County, May actually started his career in the prison system, working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester.

Following that stint he worked part time as an officer in Grand Meadow before coming to the Sheriff’s Office.

“There are good things and bad things throughout your career.”
Chief Deputy Mark May. Photo provided

“At first it was just getting out, doing something different,” May said. “For me it was something different every day. It’s not the same old ground as when I was on patrol.”

As a junior deputy, May was stationed in LeRoy. It was an area that many deputies rotated out of when they got the opportunity, but May said he enjoyed his six years in LeRoy, an area he got to know well.

He made himself available to the people of LeRoy and came to know many of its people, part of a larger opportunity to grow.

“I enjoyed it. It was great. It was really a good experience,” May said. “You’re in the community and it was great in a way because I got to do everything.”

“It’s a chance to meet the community and the people in the community,” he added.

In fact, it was in LeRoy where in some ways he got his first taste of investigations. He remembered investigators at the time urging him to follow up on cases.

“You know the people down there and they are going to come to you with any information,” May remembered being told.

Experiences also came from what some might find as mundane. When checking a business and finding out the door was open to the bank. It was also while patrolling this part of Mower County that May made one of his first DWI stops, but added that he still sees the person to this day.

“I’ve seen him numerous times, numerous times and we’ll stop and talk,” May said. “Everybody makes mistakes and I never held anything against anybody. See them the next time and say ‘hello.’”

During his time in LeRoy, May established a DARE program in the elementary and junior high schools and continued that until moving to investigations.

While working investigations May dealt with a lot of child protection issues, sexual assault issues involving both minors and adults and assistance fraud.

May made his final advance when former Sheriff Terese Amazi appointed him chief deputy after she was elected. While he still investigated, those things he investigated were different.

“It changed,” May said. “You might not be specifically dealing with investigations, but in a way your investigations you are involved in changes.”

May often took on internal investigations involving complaints against deputies or from outside agencies who wanted transparency into their own internal cases.

Spending over three decades in one spot will open a person up to a parade of changes, including technology. One of the things that stands out the most is the change in communications over the years.

“Basically, I would stand with my portable, if I was out with that, in the middle of Main Street, holding it up in the air hoping I could trip the repeater in Elkton and get back to Austin,” May said.

Information collection has changed as well, transforming from a large Rolodex filled with recipe-type cards filled with offender information to being able to access a computer in a squad car or at the office.

A career filled with interest, he even flew a plane back from Charles City, Iowa during a join investigation of a suspect with the Minnesota State Patrol. May remembers the pilot handing the controls over and telling him to fly it back to Austin.

Landing, however, was a different story.

“I don’t mind flying and I don’t driving back, but I’m not going to land,” May said laughing. “That was unique. I got to fly a plane.”

All of these experiences were part of a career May cherished, even with its balance of what a day could bring.

“There are good things and bad things throughout your career,” May said. “That was an interesting time doing that and one I’ll never forget.”

There’s a lot May is taking with him into retirement, including those he worked with, not only in the Sheriff’s Office but the Austin Police Department as well.

“I’ve worked with and for some really good sheriffs,” May said. “Good opportunities, training.”

“It’s been a good working relationship with APD,” He continued. “Their investigators work closely together. They have a major case, we would help out on it. We have a major case, there is so much cohesiveness. Just the resources we can combine and pull together to resolve something and help other out.”