Retired couple joins posse to meet people

Otter Tail County Sheriff's Posse seeks new members

Jerry and Barb Thurman joined the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Posse after retiring as a way to meet area residents and volunteer in their community.
Barbie Porter / Perham Focus

VERGAS — Deep in the woods, Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Posse member Jerry Thurman sat in his squad car, lights running, listening to the news. He was keeping an eye on the smoldering embers of a house that was destroyed by a fire.

Jerry Thruman.JPG
Jerry Thurman has enjoyed being a member of the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Posse and recently worked at a county fair and rodeo.<br/>
Barbie Porter / Perham Focus

“They thought the arsonist might come back,” he said.

Suddenly, the distinct pop of ammunition invaded the night. With 28 years of service in the Air Force, Thurman is no stranger to the sound of gunfire and tense situations. He calmly assessed his surroundings.

“I realized right away what it was,” Jerry said. “There was ammo in the basement and it had blown up.”


While some on the posse may enjoy the thrill that comes with night stakeouts, others prefer being a friendly and protective presence at events throughout the county, such as fairs, festivals and parades.

“Posse members get to pick which assignments they want to cover,” Jerry explained.

Both Jerry, 68, and his wife Barb, 66, are members of the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Posse. The rural Vergas residents were encouraged to join the group by a friend they made while horseback riding. The Thurman’s have a long history with horses and riding them. While many may envision posse members on a horse, the Thurman’s emphasized that owning or riding a horse is not a requirement for posse members.

“To be in the posse, you have to be 21, physically and mentally capable of performing assigned tasks involving long periods of walking, standing or sitting, have a valid driver’s license and pass a criminal background check,” Jerry said.

Members are also required to participate in a minimum of 25 hours of posse-related events annually, with the average shift being four hours. Everything from training to uniforms and equipment are paid for by the posse, Jerry added.

“You sign up for shifts you want to work, so you get to pick what you want to do,” Barb said. “It’s a great way to meet people, and I think others joined the posse for that reason, too.”

Barb noted that posse members are trained extensively for their volunteer jobs. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department in Otter Tail. During the monthly meetings, training sessions are held as well as discussions about upcoming events or briefings on incidents that the posse covered.

The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Posse numbers have varied throughout the years, with the most being more than 20 members and the current number being about 13. Jerry noted members come from a variety of backgrounds and with many personalities. About half of the members are retired.


“We’re retired and it’s like being on vacation every day; we don’t know if it is Saturday or Wednesday,” Barb said.

Both agreed being in the posse helped them make friends after moving to the community, as well as providing an avenue to get involved in their town (and neighboring communities).

“It’s a great way to get out, enjoy life and have a fulfilling experience,” Barb said.

Anyone interested in joining the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Posse can call (218) 298-8555.

They also hold a monthly meeting if interested people would like to attend and ask questions. Those joining the posse assist in county search and rescue during an emergency/natural disaster or the case of a missing person via horseback, vehicle or on foot. The posse also provides security for numerous events such as county fairs, and festivals, etc. This is a volunteer position.

Thurmans retire in Vergas

Jerry grew up in California and attended university there. He was commissioned to be a navigator for the Air Force for the four-engine prop planes before GPS existed. He explained that meant using celestial objects and math to navigate during flights. Eventually, he worked with the C-130 special ops and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. After retiring, Jerry taught others how to fly large aircraft.

Barb also grew up in California, but spent much of the summer months at a family cabin on East Spirit Lake in rural Vergas. Later, Jerry and Barb purchased a parcel from the family.


When the two retired in 2016, they decided to make lake life a permanent fixture in their lives. Until their house was built in 2018, they lived in a horse trailer during the summer months and ventured south for the winters. In 2017, they joined the posse and in 2018 moved into their house to fully embrace life in the lake area.

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