Simons retires after 36 years as court services officer
By Sandy Bond
Counseling for troubled youth in the 1970s in Walworth County, “might have included sitting around the kitchen table and partaking of a home-cooked meal with the sheriff, his wife and their children,” Rod Simons said. “Back then Walworth County Sheriff Jim Spiry and his family lived in a mobile home right next to the jail.”
That’s all changed now.
“After 36 years, I have absolutely loved my job as court services officer for the Fifth Judicial Circuit,” Simons said.
As society changes, so does the way society deals with those choosing to break the laws.
“Part of the job is the ability to accept changes,” he said.
Punishment without rehabilitation doesn’t work, mental health professionals have found, he said.
“In rural South Dakota we’re challenged geographically; many mental health professionals are drawn to practice in larger cities for the amenities the cities can provide,” Simons said. “Jobs for their spouses, and it can be as basic as transportation, resulting sometimes in a limited number of counselors. There’s a waiting list to attend a group program like New Beginnings Center in Aberdeen. It’s a wonderful, staffed but non-secure facility, and it’s a great alternative to a detention facility.”
Simons said officers of the court do what they can do.
“There is gratification when you realize that you are a participant in helping to turn a young person’s life around for the better,” he said. “And sometimes a young person will even return to visit the office and thank us. But you never have the ability to dwell on that. In this job, there is no looking back; you’ve got to look ahead because there’s some young person that has challenges who needs your help.”
The older of two boys born to Virginia and Frances “Fritz” Simons, Rodney and his brother Scott grew up in Selby where the family ran an investment and insurance company. Rod graduated from Selby High School in 1971.
With a passion for helping others, after receiving his bachelor’s degree with a major in sociology from Northern State College in 1977, he became Spink County Deputy Sheriff. He served as Walworth County Deputy Sheriff for a year before returning to Northern to further his education. He was appointed by Fifth Circuit Court Presiding Judge Philo Hall in 1978 as court services officer assigned to the Webster office. In the midst of his training, Walworth County Court Services Officer Ry Sorenson resigned and moved to Aberdeen. Rod was asked to fill his spot as of February 1978. The Simons family, Rod, Bev and their daughter Amanda, settled on the Heart M Ranch in rural Glenham where they raise Black Angus cattle.
The daughter of Harold and Alta Richie, Bev will be retiring at the end of this summer as administrator of Prairie Sunset Village, an assisted living apartment complex located in Mobridge.
Over the years, Rod said, he’s had several great secretaries: Sharon Wolf, Laurel Spiry Berens, Dixie Huber Marlette, Christie Zabel Epseland, Monica Enderson Keller, and presently Becky Schlomer.
In nearly 40 years in law enforcement, Rod has seen technology change from carbon paper to paperless files.
During the 36 years as a court services officer, he has served on numerous Unified Judicial System committees: the UJS Safety Team and Team Leader for the UJS Technology Team. He was a founding member of the Mobridge Child Protection Team and wrote their bylaws. Rod was an active member of the South Dakota State Employees Organization serving on the executive board of directors and as president of the Mobridge chapter receiving the Executive Directors Award for outstanding service to the organization. He was president of the South Dakota Corrections Association in 1991-1992, received the Outstanding Member Award in 1993, and the Satnan-Canary Award in 2008. Because of his experience he was asked to teach juvenile justice and criminal justice at Presentation College in Aberdeen for several semesters.
Amanda, born in 1981, graduated from Selby High School and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, and M.B.A. from Dominican University, Chicago, Ill. She and husband Nick (Bild) live in western Florida where Amanda is a human resource specialist with Broward County Health Systems and Nick is computer programmer.
For years Rod has hunted the whitetail deer on the lush prairie and fished in the water of the Oahe.
Hunting far afield for the wily pheasant with several of his English pointers and setters, and Brittany Spaniels will partially fill Rod’s retirement hours. Over the years visitors to the ranch have introduced him to Tennessee Walking Horses. With their trademark “rocking chair” gait, they have replaced his quarter horses. He will also spend more time in the saddle of his Harley Davidson Ultra Classic.
“I’m not going to be bored in retirement,” he said.
On Saturday, Jan. 4, he was installed as Potentate of the Yelduz Shrine in Aberdeen. As chairman of the board of directors he is responsible for the overall operation of the fraternal and charitable sides of the organization.