Sibley County Sheriff Bruce Ponath’s term ended a few weeks earlier than expected. Ponath, who has served Sibley County faithfully as sheriff for the past 16 years, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 24.
Ponath was planning to retire after 30 years in law enforcement when his current term as sheriff ended in January and sheriff-elect Patrick Nienaber takes over.
Ponath worked as a deputy sheriff from October of 1989 through January of 1999. Ponath was promoted to chief deputy in January of 1999 and served in that capacity until he became sheriff on Jan. 6, 2003.
Roger Graham was the sheriff at the time Ponath was hired, and Graham said Ponath was good-natured and very good to work with.
After Graham retired in 1999, he continued to visit every couple of weeks to “keep abreast of what is going on” in the sheriff’s office.
“I think he did a very good job,” Graham said of Ponath’s tenure as sheriff. “It is a constant job of keeping things up to date. The radio system was updated a couple of times during his tenure, and they made some improvements to the jail...You have the communication system between all the fire departments and ambulances, and that takes a little know-how to keep up on that.”
Former Henderson Police Chief Chester Aldrich called Ponath “a very good friend” and said he would miss him dearly. Aldrich and Ponath had worked together as D.A.R.E. officers, and Aldrich said Ponath was a very good one.
“He was a decent man,” Aldrich said.
Henderson Police Chief Karl Haugen said Ponath was very supportive of both him and the Henderson Police Department.
“He also attended the roll-ins in his free time and gave us his support through the Sheriffs Posse for traffic control and help with parking,” Haugen added.
Outside of law enforcement, Ponath was a member of the Sibley County Pheasants Forever chapter and was an eight-year member of the Henderson Lions from 2002-2009.
Sibley County Sheriff’s Posse Captain Tim Briard met Ponath when he joined the Sheriff’s Posse 20 years ago. At the time, Ponath was chief deputy under Sheriff Doug Schulte. Ponath was “very fair” with everybody in his law enforcement career, Briard said.
Briard enjoyed spending time camping, fishing and hanging out with Ponath outside of work. Briard said Ponath was an avid hunter, and goose and duck hunting was his favorite game.
“Other than being a great friend and a great sheriff, I know he loved his family and loved life. It is sad that it is gone so quickly,” Briard said.