For more than 40 years, Dan Strimel donned the uniform and pinned on the badge of the North Strabane Township Police Department.
His routine came to an end Dec. 31 when Strimel retired from the department where he served as chief for almost 31 years. Strimel, who was hired as the township’s first full-time police officer May 1, 1972, became its first full-time chief March 8, 1983.
“For 42 years, I’ve had someplace to go, and I didn’t have to worry about what I’d wear,” Strimel said with a chuckle. “Now, I have to worry about what to wear with my blue jeans. Right now, it just feels like being on vacation. I am sure that will change.”
The 66-year-old grew up in the township, living across from the former Pennsylvania Reform School, later known as Western Center and now known as Southpointe. Summers were spent riding the tractor with his two friends, Denny and Donny Maglione, and their father, who worked at the reform school. Some of the plowing and tilling was done alongside the trusties at the school. Interstate 79 had not yet dissected the township.
Strimel’s interest in police work can be traced to his uncle, Robert Horr, who was in the military police.
“When I graduated from high school, I went to Youngstown State and was going to major in physical education,” Strimel said. “But I decided it wasn’t for me. I wanted to join the Air Force as a police officer, but an injury in a car accident ended that.”
Strimel started classes at Washington Hospital to become an X-ray technician when he began working part time in the township police department. As he planned to join the state police, military recruiters started calling.
“I found out my draft number was three, so I enlisted in the Army, where they guaranteed I could join the military police,” Strimel said. “I became a corrections officer and then volunteered to go to Vietnam.”
When he returned home after a two-year stint in the Army, in which he achieved the rank of sergeant, Strimel returned to the police department, working as a part-time officer before he was named the first full-time officer in 1972.
Strimel witnessed the growth of the township from a small, rural one with six officers in 1972 to one with 19 full-time officers in addition to the chief. The officers in the department regularly participate in highway safety enforcement programs, as well as programs in the schools. Over the years, Strimel also supported the implementation of new technology.
That is a far cry from when Strimel started.
“Back then, most of what we did was traffic duties at The Meadows,” Strimel said. “We’d let the cars in before the races and then let them out when the races were over.
“There were two, six-hours shifts, with two officers working between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” he added. “State police would answer the daylight calls.”
The officers purchased their own dark pants to wear and were given a shirt and hat.
“We had to get our own gun belt and gun,” Strimel said. “We were given a copy of the crimes and vehicle code and told, ‘Here, go to work.’”
There was some on-the-job training with another officer, but Strimel said it didn’t last long. The patrol car was equipped with a hand-me-down siren from the fire department. Hit the siren on a traffic stop, and Strimel said it would be 10 minutes before it went through its cycle and stopped blaring.
Most of the township was farmland. There were homes in the village of Strabane and in White Manor and Borland Manor, both off Route 19. The Glencannon housing plan had just been built.
“We did have two drive-ins,” he said with a smile. “But the rest of the township was pretty much country.”
With more free time, Strimel can snap more photos and spend more time with his family. Strimel and his wife, Kevinda, have a son, Chad Strimel, two daughters, Nicole Terling and Danielle Bombash, and a grandson, Seth Strimel.
Township manager Frank Siffrinn worked with Strimel for more than 20 years.
“We had a strong professional relationship, and he is also a good friend,” Siffrinn said. “He represented the township well with minimal problems. He helped guide the department to the 21st century. Hopefully, we can find someone to follow in his footsteps.”
Township officials launched a search for Strimel’s successor, placing advertisements in law enforcement periodicals and a few newspapers. While Siffrinn said the search is not national, he expects the ads to be looked at across the country.
Siffrinn emphasized the position is that of police chief. The chief is not part of the bargaining unit. The successful applicant will have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, public administration, business management or a related field. The applicant also must have a minimum of 10 years’ police experience, with five of those years as a lieutenant or above in a supervisory role overseeing at least five officers. The applicant needs a completed police command training such as the program offered by the FBI and have the state’s Act 120 certification.
The deadline for applications is the middle of February. Siffrinn said the applications will be screened and reviewed before three people are chosen for interviews.
“Hopefully, the position will be filled by the end of March,” he said.