From chief deputy to commissioner, Dybevick looks forward to new challenges
Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick retired from the Nobles County Sheriff's Office on Friday, after 35 years working in law enforcement.
WORTHINGTON — A long line of police vehicles, with sirens and lights going, escorted retired Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick home from his last shift with the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office Friday afternoon.
Dybevick worked in law enforcement for 35 years, six months, and 24 days — that’s equal, he said, to 12,993 days. He rattled these totals off the top of his head, sitting in an office that will soon be turned over to a new chief deputy. Dybevick was named chief deputy in August 2014, when he left the Worthington Police Department and moved across the hall to the sheriff’s office.
“It was completely accidental,” Dybevick said of his career in law enforcement. He had, at one point, been going to school to be an accountant. He took the test to pursue law enforcement almost on a whim with a friend who wanted to become a cop.
“It was like a light switch flipped on,” he said. “I had just dropped out of college because I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I thought, I went home and told my parents I'm gonna try going to cop school … and I’ve loved every second of it.”
He was hired as a part-time officer with the Worthington Police Department two weeks out of school in 1987, when there was a strike happening at the local meat packing plant. He made just over $8 an hour, and was given a helmet and a baton to patrol. He points to that same baton, sitting in the corner of his office all these years later.
Dybevick moved to a full-time position a year later, was promoted to sergeant the following year, and eventually became captain. When he left the WPD after nine years as captain to join the sheriff’s office, he received the same send-off — a police escort home. It’s a standing tradition for local members of law enforcement.
“I’ve worked just about every position … been involved with every department,” Dybevick said of his 35 years in law enforcement. He’s participated every year in the county’s Shop with a Cop event, and has helped coordinate the department’s Project Lifesaver program since its inception in Nobles County in 2016. He’s also given presentations to local driver’s education students.
“It’s never a struggle for me to come to work,” Dybevick said. “I love coming to work.”
It’s a career that’s had its ups and downs. Everything, Dybevick said, is a cycle — and while the last several years are nothing like he’s ever seen before, things will change again. Of that, he said, he’s sure. Throughout his time with both the sheriff’s office and police department, he’s seen some pretty horrible things happen, and he can list off stories he won’t ever forget, involving cases of domestic assault and criminal sexual conduct or DWIs that have ended friendships.
But among the more unpleasant cases, he also spoke of moments that hold a lot of meaning for him. Months after talking down a young woman threatening suicide — Dybevick is an FBI-trained negotiator — that same woman later approached him and thanked him for saving her life. He’s got other, similar stories about people who have approached him weeks, even years after an encounter, to say those moments marked a turning point in their lives.
“A lot of what we do, it’s immeasurable,” Dybevick explained. “I don’t know if I’m helping someone … but most of the time, unless they get arrested again, you don’t really know.”
He’ll miss the work, but it’s his coworkers — many of whom Dybevick refers to on and off as “good kids” — that he’ll miss the most. He's the self-proclaimed "team cheerleader" and the camaraderie and routine that has surrounded his career will be an adjustment to leave behind.
“You develop a real closeness with the people you work with,” he said. “It’s a very close-knit family, and you might not get along with everybody all the time, but you have each other’s backs.”
While he’s retiring from law enforcement, Dybevick isn’t ready to call it quits on working with the county. He was elected to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners in November, and is set to be sworn in this week. After working in administrative roles with the police and then the sheriff’s office, he’s familiar with a lot of the inner workings of the county.
“I think that’s going to help me in making informed decisions,” he noted, adding that, to the best of his knowledge, no one else elected to the board of commissioners held a job with the county beforehand. “I think that brings a unique perspective to the job I’m going to be taking over.”
Dybevick said he’s looking forward to the new challenges, and that there’s a lot for him to learn while moving into this next chapter. Still, he has no plans to be a stranger in the sheriff’s office and will continue to come in and help when needed.
“Hopefully, I did something positive while I was here,” Dybevick said. “I want to keep that going ... I always want to see this department succeed.”