Travis Harris works his final day as Rossville’s Town Marshal on Friday after 18 years in the position and over 20 years of law enforcement in the town.
Harris began his career in law enforcement as a corrections officer for the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office. He was then promoted to transport officer. In 2000, he became a Reserve Marshal for Rossville. In January of 2003, Harris graduated in the 153rd class of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.
When Harris became Rossville’s Town Marshall, a month after his 21st birthday, he was the youngest town marshal in the state.
“I started working under Mike Hensley and those guys,” Harris said. “Mike, Rick Morgan, Glen Wilson, and I could name so many others – all of those guys really brought me up and got with Don Kessler, and he said I would be a good fit for Rossville.
“I can’t say enough about Don Kessler,” Harris said of the previous Rossville Town Marshal, who passed away on July 4 of 2020. “He had served Rossville for 32 years and did so many things. I had huge shoes to fill coming in behind Don Kessler. I always tried to mirror how I felt he treated the community. Yes, I am a law enforcement officer, but I am also a member of the community. I tired to mirror myself after him.”
Harris is an academy-certified instructor and was a member of the county’s SWAT team from 2011 to Dec. 31 of 2020. He was awarded a Medal of Valor in 2013.
Barth Mink will now follow in the footsteps of Harris and of Kessler before him.
“Barth Mink will be taking over for me,” Harris told The Times on Thursday morning. “He has been a deputy since 2015. Last year, we got our first K-9, Diesel, for the town, and (Mink) is the K-9 officer. He will still be the K-9 and the Marshal. He is a graduate of Rossville High School.”
Harris said that several factors led to his decision to retire.
“I had an awesome opportunity to police a small town, but the stress that can come along with that for 20-some years tends to take a toll on you,” he said. “Twenty years is a pretty typical age that a police officer thinks about retiring – between 20 and 30.”
Harris says he was also presented with an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down.
“My plan is to work for an absolutely great company, which is Bailey Trucking as one of their dispatchers,” he said. “They are very good to the community and to their employees. I had an opportunity to go to work for them, and I took that opportunity because of their reputation and leadership. When people hear who I am going to work for, everyone has made the comments about ‘What a great company’ and ‘What great people. They are so generous.’”
Harris said his family, his wife and three children, was the major factor in his decision.
“One thing that I do think gets overlooked as a police officer, whether it is going out on a SWAT callout or here on daily routine when I saw something bad, is the impact that has on our families,” Harris said. “When I started here, I was single, but I had the extreme support of my parents and sister. When I got married and started having children, I saw the impact my job had on them. A lot of the time, they don’t get the ‘Thank you’ they deserve for putting up with that for so may years. When I ran out the door, they would feel scared, and I didn’t think about that at the time. They put up with a lot over the years. If I could say just one thing, I would thank them. I thank them so much for their support.
“Through the years, I have stood at attention at police funerals with the bagpipes playing for an officer that didn’t make it home,” he added. “I attended five or six police funerals. They paid the ultimate sacrifice, but you don’t walk away from law enforcement unscathed.”
Harris says that he took a “passionate role” with suicide prevention after losing his father in 2013.
“When I would go on suicide calls or calls like that, that stuff never leaves you,” he said. “You can never unsee those things. There will be things that haunt you. I don’t think they will every go away, but I pray they will fade over time.”
Harris says it will be hard to walk away from law enforcement “because it is a lifestyle,” particularly in a small town such as Rossville.
“It is not a job. It is a lifestyle,” Harris said. “You become close with members of the public. You know everybody by name, and they know you by your first name. There are times where you see the people at their best times, and then there are times where you see people in the worst moments of their life because you may be the first face they see in a tragic moment… I think it was learning that we are all human. I hope that I treated people with dignity, respect and a smile. As Marshal, you don’t just deal with criminal things. You wear a lot of hats… What I look back at as a success is those people and if I shared a moment with them and gave them compassion and helped them through a difficult time.
“It is hard to walk away from the people of Rossville,” he added. “They have been great to me. I have always felt welcome here.”
Harris says his “crowning achievement” was giving one young man the opportunity to live out a dream.
“In 2016, we made Nick Thorp an honorary deputy with the Rossville Police Department,” Harris said. “He would come work with me on Tuesdays, which was my favorite day of the week, hanging out with him. He has Down syndrome, but I looked at him as somebody who has the same abilities as everyone else but a bigger capacity to love and be loyal. So, what better person to have on your police department? It is not all about arresting people but about the smile on your face and being able to approach people. Nick was able to do all of those things, maybe even when I couldn’t.”
Harris leaves law enforcement with a message to young officers.
“Don’t let it eat at you,” he said. “Don’t think that you are invincible or that you have to put out this bravado that you can handle anything. Make sure that you talk to people. Make sure you don’t let that consume you. It is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are going to make it a 21-year or a 30-year career, you can’t make it a sprint.”