El Dorado Sheriff’s race: Heated battle in packed June primary | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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El Dorado Sheriff’s race: Heated battle in packed June primary

Adam Jensen
ajensen@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Ninety-one state and regional contests will be decided by voters during a primary election on June 8, but the most competitive regional decision facing South Shore’s California voters is the race for El Dorado County Sheriff.

Six candidates remain in the race following the departure of retired California Highway Patrol Chief Stan Perez in February.

Perez cited personal and financial reasons for dropping out of the race.

Questions also arose about the validity of the Perez’s reported college education in an article in the Mountain Democrat.

Each of the remaining candidates have focused their campaigns on protecting public safety in the face of anticipated budget cuts and getting the sheriff’s office more involved in the community it serves.

If one of the six candidates is able to attract more than half of the votes in the primary election, he will become the next El Dorado County sheriff.

But, if none of the candidates attracts a majority vote, the top two vote-getters in June will face-off in the Nov. 2 election.

Another race on the June ballot with local ties is South Shore Attorney Robert Huckaby’s challenge to incumbent Judge Nelson Keith Brooks for the El Dorado County Superior Court Department 9 seat in Cameron Park.

El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, District Attorney Vern Pierson, and Recorder-Clerk William Schultz are among the numerous candidates for county offices who are running unopposed in the June 8 primary and Nov. 2 general election.

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Kathay Lovell and Councilmen Bill Crawfrod and Jerry Birdwell are each up for re-election in November. The filing period for that race runs from July 12 to Aug. 6.

Age: 44

Occupation: District Attorney Investigator

Lives in: Mt. Aukum, Calif.

Priorities if elected: Reinvigorating the resident deputy program, where sheriff’s deputies live and work in the same area, or at least assigning deputies area specific beats will be important to getting the sheriff’s office more involved in the community, D’Agostini said during a phone interview Wednesday.

“I think that, over the years, law enforcement has been separated from the community. They don’t know the people they serve and the people they serve don’t know them,” D’Agostini said. “I want to fix that with an involved leadership style.”

Making people feel more comfortable talking to deputies makes law enforcement easier and ultimately leads to safer communities, D’Agostini added.

D’Agostini said his youth sets him apart from the other candidates. He said being able to serve several consecutive terms will add continuity and consistency to the sheriff’s office.

On the web: http://www.johndagostini.com

Age: 56

Occupation: Retired Sheriff’s Sergeant

Lives in: Pollock Pines, Calif. Hennick has owned a home in South Lake Tahoe since 2001.

Priorities if elected: A three-time candidate for sheriff, Hennick said he aims to make sheriff’s office fiscally solvent rather than a drain on county resources during an interview on Wednesday.

“The first priority is to make sure we operate in the black and not in the red in our budget,” Hennick said.

Developing a program where the county could house inmates from other jurisdictions for a fee is one way the department could raise money for the county, Hennick said.

Reestablishing resident deputies throughout the county, ramping up volunteer programs and making the DARE drug use prevention program available to all grade levels are important aspects of a “back to basics approach to hometown law enforcement” advocated by Hennick.

Hennick also said he would like to see mounted units return to the Lake Tahoe Basin and other outlying areas of the county.

On the web: http://www.larryhennick.com

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired Sheriff’s Captain

Lives in: Kelsey, Calif.

Priorities if elected: While saying that none of the candidates has a “magic bullet” to solve the county’s budget woes, Hillman said Wednesday that if elected his priority would be to reduce sheriff’s office expenses while keeping deputies on the streets.

“I will be looking at all operations within the sheriff’s office to see if there are any areas where we are duplicating services,” Hillman said.

“The last thing I want to do is cut patrol officers.”

Hillman, who has worked as a manager out the sheriff’s office Tahoe division, said he plans to work on what he feels is a “disconnect” between the South Shore office and the Placerville office.

“I want to get back to a law enforcement officer that is very public oriented,” Hillman said. “I want to forge a partnership with the community.”

On the web:

http://www.erniehillman.com

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired Investigation Chief

Lives in: El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Priorities if elected: Luca vowed to focus on the county’s youth, as well as budget issues during an interview with the Tribune on Wednesday.

He said he has been especially concerned with the decrease in school resource officers throughout the county.

“Youth issues and the emerging gang problem are issues the next sheriff is going to have to face,” Luca said.

Luca said his experience as the director of global corporate security for E*Trade Financial puts him in a unique position among the sheriff’s candidates.

“I have a broad base of experience in business and law enforcement,” Luca said. “I want to take the best of what I’ve learned in those worlds to create a better organization.”

Expanding community policing and watch programs, reducing overhead to fill deputy positions and increase training and improving department morale and retention are also among Luca’s priorities if elected.

On the web: http://www.luca4sheriff.com

Age: 47

Occupation: Placerville Chief of Police

Lives in: Smithflat, Calif.

Priorities if elected: Nielsen sees an extension of the National Night Out Program, where neighborhoods throughout the nation gather for block parties on one night each summer, as a key to getting the sheriff’s office more involved with residents and helping ease persistent problems such as gangs and drugs. Nationally, Placerville has been among the top participants of National Night Out for it’s size during the past five years.

“That’s really what I bring to the table, a substantial ability to reach out to the community and use that participation to solve chronic problems,” Nielsen said Wednesday.

On his ability to mange a budget, Nielsen said the Placerville Police Department has never been over budget during his tenure, even after seeing budget cuts as deep as 20 percent.

On the web: http://www.GeorgeNielsen4Sheriff.com

Age: 56

Occupation: El Dorado County Sheriff’s Captain

Lives in: Gold Hill, Calif.

Priorities if elected: Mending relationships within a sheriff’s office that includes conflicting opinions about who should be the new sheriff should be the first task of anyone elected to the position, Therkildsen said Wednesday.

“With six different candidates running, just the nature of (the campaign) has caused a certain amount of divisions with the department,” Therkildsen said.

If elected, Therkildsen said he would make his expectations clear to members of the department so the divisions do not persist.

He said his current employment with the sheriff’s office gives him an advantage over the other candidates.

“Nobody brings the knowledge of the department to the sheriff position like I do,” Therkildsen said. “I don’t have a steep learning curve. I know the people, I know the personalities within in the sheriff’s department. There’s not going to be a learning in curve.”

Getting deputies the unique training necessary for working in the Tahoe area, like search and rescue, as well as training the entire sheriff’s office to be as “community minded” as possible are priorities for Therkildsen.

Keeping as many deputies in the office as possible will be a priority during any budget discussions, Therkildsen added.


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