Gone hiking!

Posted 6/28/22

Veteran PCSO deputy retires after quarter-century By Sarah Nigbor In her 25-year law enforcement career, Deputy Tonette May has learned to expect the unexpected. Having that roll-with-the punches …

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Gone hiking!


Veteran PCSO deputy retires after quarter-century

By Sarah Nigbor

In her 25-year law enforcement career, Deputy Tonette May has learned to expect the unexpected. Having that roll-with-the punches attitude has served her well, especially in stressful situations.

“I always told myself, if something was hard, it’s not going to last forever,” May said. “It’s going to be shortlived and it will be done. It’s hard right now, but it won’t last forever.”

May began her full-time law enforcement career with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office 25 years ago as a jail er/dispatcher. She will retire on June 30.

Her career path led her to hold different positions in the sheriff’s department, such as a patrol deputy, Defense and Arrest Tactics instructor, jail sergeant, paper server and transport deputy. At the beginning of her career, she

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also worked part-time for the Spring Valley Police Department.

“I was a sergeant in the jail,” May said. “While I was there, I was on the design committee and transition team for the new build (jail).” She was a jail sergeant until 2019, when she transferred out onto the road again as a transport officer. She provides inmates transportation to doctor appointments or court appearances who need to remain in custody, or transports people arrested on warrants.

May always planned to enter law enforcement when she graduated high school, but life happened. She had a boyfriend and they got married and had kids. He didn’t approve of her entering a law enforcement career, so she put her dream on hold. “It kind of got set on the back burner until we divorced, then I decided to make the leap,” May said.

She received her training at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire. PCSO put her through the basic recruit training. In fact, she and Sheriff Nancy Hove have been together from the beginning.

“Tonette has been a great friend and employee,” Hove said. “We started at the same time and will be leaving about the same time.

What a career we have had!”

Her career has been just as rewarding as she hoped it would be. Although it’s cliché, she said helping people in need was the true highlight.

“I was able to help them in emergency needs, but I helped them in other ways too,” May said. “Through the Pierce County Benevolent Officers Association, we donated money to people who have experienced something tragic. I’ve always kind of put others before my needs. It was kind of natural I guess.”

No job is without its challenges, especially police work. May has found the way law enforcement are currently perceived by many as tough to take. She misses the days when people in positions of authority, whether it was a police officer, teacher, or town leader, garnered respect.

“I think there are many out there who are anti-law enforcement,” May said. “Two girls were turning in front of me at the stoplight in Ellsworth and they flipped me off. I think society just perceives us in a different way. We don’t have the respect people used to have, anyone in a position of authority. I think we’re dealing with a lot different people than we were five years ago. Nancy will forever be Sheriff Hove to me. I think it’s a respect that I hold tight.”

May is quick to say that those who get arrested are not bad people; they just make bad choices. She laments the increase in drug use, especially mind-altering drugs.

There have been plenty of bright moments too. For example, when she had the opportunity to read to her granddaughter’s preschool class earlier this year. Their enthusiasm and excitement to see her was nothing short of amazing, she said. She will forever hold that memory close to her heart.

Another memory that stands out for a different reason tickles her funny bone, one involving a Czechoslovakian man being arrested for drunk driving. “A gentleman was on Highway 10 going eastbound. An off-duty officer was following him at a high rate of speed. It was a very short chase. He was from Czechoslovakia. He was intoxicated. He thinks he’s in Savage, Minn. I arrested him for OWI and I took him to the hospital for the blood draw. He just sat in the back seat and ranted ‘In my country women can’t do this,’” she laughed.

A veteran officer such as May certainly has wisdom to share with those going into or considering a career in law enforcement. Expect the unexpected, because if you think it’s going to be a 9 to 5 job and you’re done at 5 p.m., you will be mistaken. You may have to finish up a case, respond to a crash or take someone to the hospital.

“There’s always things that come up,” May said. “You rarely get home on time.”

She choked up as she stressed the importance of having good morals and values, and treating colleagues like family.

“I love my law enforcement family,” May said. “The younger generation don’t know what that is. I have a lot of guilt not spending time with my family at Christmas and birthdays. I credit my kids for this retirement as much as it’s an accomplishment for me. They made a lot of sacrifices.” May often showed up at her kids’ games and concerts in uniform, just so she could see them. She has three children and nine grandchildren, all of whom live in the Elmwood or Marshfield areas. May is proud that her son now works part- time at the jail. After his first day on the job, which was quite eventful, he called her because a lightbulb went out. “He saw a lot, probably a lot that I hadn’t seen at the jail,” May said. “He said ‘I have a whole new respect for what you do,’ he said. I said, ‘Well Ben, did you think that I just sat around drinking coffee all the time?’ There’s good, there’s bad and there’s ugly. I tried to share what was good. The bad wasn’t anything for the kids to take on or know anything about. I left work at work and home at home.”

As her time on the job winds down, May is reflective. Her career has been a source of joy for her; she took her responsibilities to the community seriously.

“I love the people. It’s been an honor to serve them, the people of the county,” May said. “They are very supportive of the department. I’ve worked under the best administration there is. People have left and I’ve told them the grass is not greener on the other side. Some of them have tried to come back. I love my law enforcement family. It’s been an honor for 25 years. I kind of hesitated because I wasn’t really ready to go. We live in one of the best communities, I think.”

Outside of work, May likes to unwind by camping, hiking and shed antler hunting in South Dakota. In fact, one of her favorite places on earth is Brown’s Lodge & Hunting Ranch in Gettysburg, S.D.

“I do some upland bird and water fowl hunting,” she said. “A little bit of deer hunting.”

After her retirement party, May has a plan ready to go. In fact, the shirt she will wear explains it all: Her retirement plan is to hike.

“I got a plan and I got the shirt to prove it. My goal is to go to every state park and hike it. And if there’s camping available, camp it. Then I’ll move on to the Minnesota state parks,” May said. “All I can is, it’s been a real honor.”