In 1954, a small band of probation agents met in Rochester, Minnesota, and formed an organization that was to have a lasting effect in the state of Minnesota. The organization was named the Southern Minnesota Probation Officers Association. At that first meeting in Rochester, Emil Meurer of Mankato was elected the Association's first president.
The primary objective of the organization was to provide an avenue where members could meet together several times a year to discuss mutual problems. A second objective was the encouragement of the establishment of the probation departments in other rural counties. To this end, the group offered their services to the juvenile judges and Board of County Commissioners. The group eventually formulated a legislative program, and in alliance with the Association of County Commissioners, the state Sheriff's Association, and the Juvenile Judges Association, took an active part in influencing the course of legislation regarding corrections in the state of Minnesota.
John Jette described the beginnings of MACPO when he knew every probation officer in the state, what counties they served, and who their judges were. Many were single agents, who covered two or more counties. Because they were alone in their offices, MACPO had a special importance. It was an organization where they could meet with other probation officers for support, encouragement, and sharing ideas. Effort went into maintaining salaries, state-reimbursement to counties, mileage and legislation. MACPO also worked hard to keep the appointing authority with the judges.
Prior to 1954, only 14 of the 87 counties in the state of Minnesota were receiving probation services for their courts. Subsequent to 1954, many additional counties throughout the state added probation services. This increase necessitated a change of the association. Accordingly, in April of 1958, it was agreed to change the name of the organization from the Southern Minnesota Probation Officers Association to the Minnesota Association of County Probation Officers. By June 1958, the new association (MACPO) had adopted a constitution and bylaws and endorsed a statement of aims and objectives.
Since 1959, MACPO has continued to grow and develop as a professional organization. Although present day MACPO still subscribes to the original objectives established in 1954, the focus has greatly expanded. MACPO appeals to all probation officers in each of the service systems (county, state, and community corrections) as well as associate memberships with service providers, students and others dedicated to MACPO's mission. MACPO promotes efficient and professional delivery of probation services through legislative monitoring and training on topics and current trends in corrections and society.
In the early 1980's, membership in MACPO had been declining and there was talk of disbanding the organization. The Executive Board, which consisted of Glen Sell, Tim Cleveland, Rhonda Hanten and Doug Erickson, set out to renew the enthusiasm about the MACPO organization. A decision was made to create an award to recognize contributions made by a individual over a sustained period of time to the field of probation. Further, this award was to acknowledge membership involvement rather than simply retirement. The recipient was to be selected by the Executive Board of MACPO for their exemplary contributions and dedication to the profession of probation/parole.
At the time the idea for this award came about, it seemed fitting to name it the Al Reker Memorial Award. Al Reker was one of the charter members of the Southern Minnesota Association of County Probation Officers, which later became MACPO. Al Reker was a native of southwestern Minnesota, where he long held the position of Chief Probation Officer in Nobles county until his death from cancer. He was an extremely dedicated, yet unpretentious man, who was well respected in the field of corrections as well as in his own community, where he served as a role model of many people. Al Reker was also known for his strong commitment to family. As a father of nine children, one of whom is a probation officer, it seemed only appropriate to name this award after Al Reker, for his contributions epitomize the MACPO probation officer.
The Al Reker Memorial Award has been distributed since 1982 and is received yearly at the MACPO spring conference. Al Reker recipients provided, and many continue to provide, exceptional leadership and dedication to the field of Corrections.
Lyle Pearson was the first recipient of the Al Reker Memorial Award, he began working in probation in the 1950's with Emil Meurer and the Tri County Probation Agency. Lyle was active in Corrections and Veterans Affairs. He retired in 1983.
Since at least the mid-1970's, MACPO has had a four-person Executive Board. These four positions, President, President Elect, Secretary, and Treasurer, have been elected by the membership of the organization. The President Elect position has always been a two-year commitment, in that after serving one year as President Elect, that individual became President of the organization. Then, in the 1980's a change was made in the bylaws to have the Secretary and Treasurer positions become two-year terms. The reason for this change was to have more stability on the Executive Board. Previous to that change, there were three new Executive Board members each year. By alternating the two-year terms of the Secretary and the Treasurer each year, there were only two new Executive Board members elected with two board members being in a second year of their term.
Over the past twenty years, the size and the subsequent budget of the organization has increased dramatically. Up until the early 1980's, the budget of the organization was on a shoestring with balances in the Treasury of only several hundred dollars. This has now changed, where the organization is dealing with a budget of well into five figures.
The committee structure has become the backbone of the organization. Through the 1970's and in the early 1980's, committees did exist in the areas of membership, legislative issues, and other special needs. However, the reality is that these were loosely structured committees generally consisting of a small number of people, sometimes just one, who would monitor the particular activity. The responsibility of planning conferences was left entirely with the four-person elected Executive Board. As the membership grew, so grew the committees, both in size and responsibilities. The current standing committees are Legislative, Membership, Communication, CPO Directors, Training and Education, and Safety. Over the past ten years, these committees have been delegated and have assumed the real work of the organization. The Committee Chairs have become the hardest working members of the organization. The Executive Board oversees the direction of the organization, but the actual day-to-day work and decisions are done by dedicated committee members. With that in mind, a change was made to the bylaws in 1996, establishing a Board of Directors, consisting of the four elected Executive Board members as well as the Committee Chairs from the five standing committees. This Board of Directors now meets on a monthly basis to guide and direct the organization. Many of the decisions formerly made either by the Executive Board or by the entire membership are now able to be accomplished at the Board of Director meetings.
MACPO also continues to be an avenue for bringing professionals together and developing friendships throughout the state. The conferences sponsored by MACPO bring the newest information to agents and utilizes the expertise within the membership as much as possible.
MACPO provides a strong voice to over 200 professionals and strongly supports the County Probation Delivery System in Minnesota. MACPO has grown steadily for over 60 years and will continue to do so with the dedication and support of all corrections professionals involved.