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Winters applies for interim sheriff

Former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters is one of six applicants for interim sheriff for the next two years, saying his 12 years in the job make him the most qualified to offer a "seamless" transition.

Winters, who lost to Corey Falls in the 2014 election, was one of three applicants to file for the position Friday just before the application deadline. Falls leaves in January to take a police administrative position in the city of Gresham.

Winters joins two current sheriff's department administrators, a former lieutenant and a current deputy looking to head the department.

"I'm the most qualified guy to step in and finish the term," Winters said. "It's a way bigger job and responsibility than a lot of people understand and for me, there's no learning curve.

"Taxpayers won't have to pay for a learning curve," Winters said. "They'll get results right away."

But a sheriff's union leader said Winters' potential appointment would be "moving back" away from community-policing approaches in place since Winters departed at the end of 2014.   

Noah Strohmeyer, president of the Jackson County Sheriff Employees Association, a union representing sheriff's office employees, said the sheriff's rank and file do not want to see a change from what he called the progressive policing approach Falls brought to the position.

Under Falls, for instance, the department has reached out to the county's Latino residents and conducted a citizens' academy in Spanish, according to a union letter. Deputies have had stepped-up training in such topics as ethics as well as fair and impartial policing, and enjoyed a better relationship with Falls than they had with Winters.

"We're not interested in going backwards in the modern policing we do," Strohmeyer said.

"Would (a Winters appointment) be moving back?" Strohmeyer said. "I'd say yes."

Strohmeyer said the association is not specifically endorsing any applicant, but a good fit for the department also is one for the community.

"We want to have a healthy relationship with whoever is our next sheriff," Strohmeyer said.

Joining Winters in applying Friday were Dan Penland, who runs the county's corrections bureau, and William Froehlich, about whom little information was available Saturday. Applications previously were filed by current sheriff's Capt. Nathan Sickler, sheriff's Deputy Ian Lance and Bob Sergi, a former sheriff's lieutenant who came in third for the sheriff's post in the 2014 election.

County Commissioner Rick Dyer said Winters' 12 years on the job, plus his three elections by county voters, make him a known entity and elicit positive and negative impressions, depending upon someone's point of view.

"He's sure capable," Dyer said. "He's one of those in that mix who will receive heavy consideration."

Winters said he has been raising cattle at his ranch outside Ashland since leaving office.

Dyer said the commissioners will meet Jan. 3 and discuss how they will decide whether the three commissioners will name the interim sheriff or whether to first convene a public panel to offer input.

The board earlier this month voted against naming a community panel, with Dyer in favor of the panel.

On Jan. 3, Bob Strosser will be sworn in as the newly elected commissioner to replace outgoing Doug Breidenthal. Strosser previously has said he was in favor of asking a community panel for input.

Dyer said he personally has reached out to county department heads, judges, prosecutors, members of law enforcement and others to get input in the selection.

Regardless of how the process unfolds, "I think we'll find somebody from within that pool," Dyer said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Former Sheriff Mike Winters has applied to be Sheriff Corey Falls' replacement. Mail Tribune file photo