Finney County Attorney John Wheeler's colleagues are quick to single out his dry sense of humor.
And it's easy to see how they might welcome such a trait as a way to help ease the tension during difficult times.
Work in the county attorney's office does indeed bring its share of trying, stressful situations and dark days. Wheeler acknowledged as much in looking back on a 20-year run as county attorney, one set to end Friday with his retirement.
As the county's chief law enforcement official, Wheeler was responsible for prosecuting offenders involved in crimes ranging from minor infractions to more serious cases of rape, murder and other violent acts. It's a system that requires effective cooperation between all involved in the law enforcement community.
We too often take for granted the close working relationship between the county attorney's office and local law enforcement agencies in the quest to bring criminals to justice.
Acknowledging the challenges in a community with a transient population, gangs and other issues, key personnel in local law enforcement have touted the benefit of positive interaction with the county attorney's office, and Wheeler's leadership in particular.
Those on Wheeler's team — be it veteran staff members or employees who eventually moved on in their legal careers — also said they could rely on his professionalism and caring nature in handling duties of the day.
They knew Wheeler did his best to prosecute criminals and support victims in a conscientious way. He also took into account the welfare of people on the periphery of cases his office handled — witnesses and jurors, for example, who understandably weren't always equipped to handle ugly situations they encountered. He worried about their well-being, too.
In a field where it would be easy to become callous and detached after many years of dealing with tragedy and misery, Wheeler remained unflappable in carrying out his duties — and not only in striving to maintain public safety, but also in looking out for so many people touched by the workings of the county attorney's office.
And all the while maintaining a much needed sense of humor.