Roger Strait Retiring From County Service
Chief probation officer for Fulton County since January 1986, Strait initially joined the ranks of county employees during the summer of 1975 when at the age of 22 he headed a summer program for economically challenged youths. Strait recalls travelling the back roads of Fulton County in a Volkswagen bus and picking up youths in order to take them to various job sites within the Buchanan State Forest and Cowans Gap State Park.
“I still wish I had that bus,” said Strait, who added his small work crew was responsible for a multitude of outdoor-oriented jobs ranging from trail cleaning and maintenance to painting.
Having attended both Hagerstown College and York College, where he obtained a degree in criminal justice in 1974, Strait already knew many of the faces within county government from a prior internship and quickly found himself accepting employment in September 1975 as a court deputy.
Three months later Strait moved up through the ranks and took on the role of probation officer. In January 1986, he was appointed through the judicial system to replace former Chief Probation Officer Greg Garland.
Strait indicated at the time of his initial employment with Probation and Domestic Relations there was only a lone probation officer on staff as well as one secretary and one domestic relations officer. Since that time, the staff has grown slightly and manages to oversee a multitude of programs on what many counties would view as a very limited budget.
In addition to now heading worthwhile programs such as adult and juvenile community service, electronic house arrest and SCRAM, the office has seen an increase in both cases and child support payments. Strait said Domestic Relations once brought in $120,000 in child support payments, a number that has grown to an estimated $2 million. Furthermore, probation cases now tip the scales at 500 adults and 30 juveniles.
Strait said he doesn’t really recall how or why he choose to become involved in criminal justice. However, looking back at his tenure with Fulton County, he certainly doesn’t have any regrets about his decision.
Strait fully attributes his success to the staff that works by his side at Probation and Domestic Relations. “They say you’re only as good as the staff around you. I’ve always been fortunate to have an exceptional staff,” said Strait of the small, close-knit group that he refers to as his “daytime family.”
While there have been many ups and downs for Strait over the years, he noted he certainly won’t miss the administrative side of his position, the late night calls that so frequently accompany a position such as his or the worrying about whether a decision was the right one.
“You can’t go into this job thinking you’re going to make friends,” Strait stated. Even though he’s been told he’s intimidating due to his size or having a bad day because of a partial frown, Strait said that has never been his personality or who he really is in everyday life.
“Bringing work home was one of the hardest parts,” Strait said of his workload that is currently 80 percent comprised of drug and alcohol related cases. “ ... My family has been put through a lot.”
Strait pointed out he has never sweated the small stuff and continues to have much pride for the Probation and Domestic Relations staff that accomplishes so much with so little. With no new hires since 1995 in the probation office, the county’s community service program has continued to win both local and state awards; officers monitored more than 1,500 days through house arrest last year; and the addition of SCRAM allows alcohol consumption to be monitored 24 hours daily.
Strait admits he doesn’t have any set plans for his retirement that will begin July 31. He has recently begun driving a school bus on a part-time basis, taking students on field trips and to sporting events. More importantly, however, he is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Sandy, who just retired from Southern Fulton Elementary where she logged 35 years as a second-grade teacher.
“We started working within one month of one another, and we will retire within one month of each other,” concluded Strait.
Until a replacement is appointed by Judge Douglas Herman, probation officer Dan Miller has been selected to serve as interim chief probation officer.