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Winters calls it quits

A former Jackson County sheriff called the decision of current Sheriff Mike Winters to retire "very wise" and a county commissioner said the incumbent probably feared that he would not win the November election.

Winters said Thursday he will retire at the end of his current term and is supporting his opponent in the general election, Ashland police Deputy Chief Corey Falls, as the next sheriff.

Winters' announcement comes two weeks before ballots are mailed for the Nov. 4 election. 

He made his announcement Thursday to KDRV Channel 12. His term expires at the end of the year.

Winters will remain on the ballot in a runoff election against Falls, who handily beat the three-term Winters in the May primary but didn't get the majority vote needed to clinch the election.

Falls said Thursday that he was informed by KDRV of Winters' retirement. He said he intends to continue his campaign, since Winters' name will remain on the ballot as well as in the voters' pamphlet.

"It's an odd situation," Falls said. "There's still a sheriff's race."

Falls garnered 46 percent of the vote in the primary; Winters drew 30 percent.

Neither Winters nor sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson returned phone calls seeking comment. His office had made no announcement about Winters' status as of Thursday evening.

Commissioner John Rachor said he heard of Winters' plans late Thursday afternoon and that he believes Winters is "ready for retirement" so he can spend more time on his rural properties outside of Ashland and on the Greensprings.

"I think he was probably worried about whether he was going to win the election, so this is going to work out for him," Rachor said.

C.W. Smith, a former county commissioner and three-time Jackson County sheriff, said it was "very wise of Mike" to retire after three terms and noted that he's discussed retirement with Winters in the past.

"I told Mike, the longer you're in office, you can gradually accumulate people who don't want you in office anymore," Smith said.

Smith said Winters had a "great run and that he's done the department well," but "it's time for a fresh face" in that office.

"I'm glad for Mike and I'm glad for Corey," Smith said. "They're both good men. It'll be a good transition."

County Clerk Chris Walker said Winters missed the window state law allows for nominated candidates to be removed from the ballot. Any ballot removal — which would have included a stated reason for withdrawing — must be done within 67 days of the election, Walker said.

Winters is a former Oregon State Police trooper who was elected sheriff in 2002, taking office in January 2003.

Winters had been very low key in mounting his campaign for a fourth term. He skipped a candidates' forum in Ashland last month and has limited campaign signs around the county.

Neither Falls nor Winters has filed campaign expense reports with the Oregon Secretary of State's office for the general election.

Ballots for the mail-in election will be sent Oct. 17, Walker said. The deadline for returning ballots is 8 p.m. Nov. 4.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or by email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters has announced he will retire at the end of the year and will no longer campaign for another term. Mail Tribune / file photo
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters has announced he will retire at the end of the year and will no longer campaign for another term. Mail Tribune / file photo