This past year was a challenging one as thousands of people, most from out-of-state, moved onto federal property in southern Morton County and protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protests attracted hundreds of agitators who engaged in criminal activity and threatened the safety of our citizens. The protests tested our community leaders, our law enforcement, and our citizens, personally and professionally.
As public officials, we have both fully accepted without hesitation the responsibilities we have undertaken, but our level of exposure during these difficult times has been exponentially increased. Whether it is coordinated attacks on our personal records or our families, or simply phone calls and emails from people outside North Dakota; times like this allow you to see your true supporters, and we want to express our deepest gratitude to the citizens of Bowman County for assisting us in our time of need. Law enforcement and National Guardsmen from your communities sacrificed time with their families and their own jobs as many came to the aide of Morton County over several months, while others took on additional shifts at home to cover for them. Additionally we want to thank the employers of our National Guardsmen for sacrificing along with the families of those deployed. You can be very proud of the men and women who worked alongside hundreds of other law enforcement professionals as we faced the unknown, but did so with great restraint and utmost professionalism.
North Dakotans live in a culture of law and order, where its law enforcement works diligently each day to uphold the law and keep everyone safe. Law enforcement and National Guardsmen from Bowman County were no exception, and we are all very grateful that none of their lives were lost or serious injury occurred during the 8-month long ordeal.
As we move forward, Morton County is proud to stand side-by-side with the numerous law enforcement and government officials who agree that open and honest communication is key to resolving differences between neighbors and returning to a peaceful environment. Our community is left to repair itself and rebuild the long-standing relationships that have been immeasurably strained on both sides. Our citizens did not choose this, they did not choose for these events to unfold in their fields, their roads, and their towns, but they will be made stronger by it. We do not agree with those who argue relations within our community have been set back decades or even irreparably damaged. We absolutely believe that we must use this as an opportunity to build even stronger relationships both individual to individual and government to government. This will take time and effort, but it is an investment that we are eager to make.
We appreciate your community – its citizens and leaders – as we continue to walk this road together. Thank you for sending your law enforcement and National Guardsmen, and thank you for your continued support as we strive every day to serve Morton County with honor and integrity.
Cody Schulz is the Chairman of the Morton County Commission and Kyle Kirchmeier serves as the Morton County Sheriff. Both reside in Mandan.