Capt. Nate Sickler is the new Jackson County sheriff.
Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously today to appoint Sickler as sheriff, filling a vacancy created when Sheriff Corey Falls left his post at the end of December to become the new director of police services and 21st century policing in Gresham.
Sickler took the oath of office this morning following the commissioners' vote.
"I feel deeply honored to fulfill this role," he said.
Sickler will finish out the last two years of Falls' four-year term. He said he plans to run for election.
Sickler oversaw patrol operations for the sheriff's office and spearheaded the department's purchase of body cameras. He previously worked for the Klamath Falls and Phoenix police departments and earned a criminology degree from Southern Oregon University in 1999.
A community panel interviewed six applicants for the sheriff job last week, with Sickler emerging as the clear favorite. Former Sheriff Mike Winters, Capt. Dan Penland, Deputy Sheriff Ian Lance, former sheriff's Lt. Robert Sergi and retired Utah police Lt. William Froehlich applied for the position as well.
County commissioners conducted their own round of interviews before making their selection.
Sickler said he wants to have strong working relationships with others in the county.
"I obviously have a big responsibility as the sheriff of Jackson County, and I'm going to do my best to fulfill those expectations of the people of Jackson County and the commissioners," he said. "I want to continue to move our office forward in a positive direction and be responsive to our community and to the other law enforcement agencies and the county government."
County commissioners said the pool of applicants was outstanding.
"Every one of them brought something to the table," said Commissioner Bob Strosser.
Strosser said Sickler was his top pick because of Sickler's experience, ability to communicate and collaborate, and commitment to 21st century policing.
Strosser, who previously had a career in law enforcement, said 21st century policing is a new term, but it has evolved from proven approaches such as community policing.
Commissioner Rick Dyer said his top two picks were Sickler and Winters, who served 12 years as sheriff before being ousted by Falls in the November 2014 election.
Dyer said Winters is a man of integrity who served the county well, but having to make tough decisions for years inevitably upset some people.
Dyer said Sickler also is a person of integrity, is competent and intelligent, has good leadership skills and is supported by sheriff's office employees.
"He's got the confidence of the department and seems to have the confidence of a large part of the community," Dyer said.
Dyer said he hopes Sickler addresses concerns raised by outlying rural residents that a law enforcement presence is lacking there.
Commissioner Colleen Roberts said Sickler and Lance were her two top picks. She said Lance is passionate about traffic enforcement and rural patrols, while Sickler has leadership and collaboration skills and can provide a seamless transition.
Sickler has been performing the duties of sheriff since Falls' departure.
When Falls left, he held a parting press conference in which he said he had been subjected to a hostile work environment by the county administration and the county Budget Committee.
The county responded by releasing a confidential investigative report it commissioned in which investigators said Falls did not face a hostile work environment, had failed to collaborate effectively with other county leaders and was upset that he was paid significantly less than Winters.
Falls said the report was biased and investigators did not interview people in the sheriff's office or talk to stakeholders. He called the county's decision to release the confidential draft after his December press conference an act of retaliation.
Dyer said although the county government is strong, the issues with the sheriff's office have created turmoil.
"We need to heal a fractured community," he said.
— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.