Morro Bay police chief to become new SLO County undersheriff

Tim Olivas says a few words to those attending a Morro Bay City Council meeting in April 2010, when he was sworn in as the city's new police chief.
Tim Olivas says a few words to those attending a Morro Bay City Council meeting in April 2010, when he was sworn in as the city's new police chief. Tribune

Morro Bay police Chief Tim Olivas, who has headed the department for nearly two years, wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon.

But when San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson approached him a few weeks ago about the possibility of becoming the next undersheriff, Olivas decided he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Parkinson announced Friday that Olivas, 49, will join the Sheriff’s Office in mid-April. Olivas will succeed Undersheriff Martin Basti, who is retiring after 33 years with the department.

The undersheriff is the second in command of the Sheriff’s Office, the county’s largest law enforcement agency.

In a news release, Parkinson described Olivas as a “trustworthy, forward-looking leader who shares my views.”

Olivas said he is looking forward to being involved in upcoming plans and projects at the Sheriff’s Office, including construction of a new women’s jail facility, moving the property and evidence room and improving volunteerism.

Olivas, a Cal Poly graduate, started working for Morro Bay police in 1987 but left three years later to work for the Department of Fish and Game. He eventually became a captain and supervised game wardens along California’s coast from the Oregon border to northern San Luis Obispo County.

Olivas moved back to Morro Bay to be a police commander in 2004 and was named chief in April 2010.

He said his accomplishments as chief include being able to pay for a K-9 patrol dog program thanks to more than $60,000 in donations; starting a senior officer program to improve recruitment and retention opportunities; and trying to bring back some specialty assignments that were cut during budget difficulties.

Morro Bay has been particularly hard hit with losses of revenue from the struggling commercial fishing industry and the antiquated Morro Bay power plant. In 2005, budget cuts led to layoffs of four police officers and the department’s part-time staff.

The department now has about 24 paid employees, including 18 sworn staff, and about 20 to 25 volunteers, Olivas said.

As police chief, Olivas earned $119,465 in 2010, public records show. He said his salary as under-sheriff has not been discussed.

Morro Bay City Manager Andrea Lueker said an interim police chief will most likely be appointed as the city proceeds with a recruitment process for a new chief, which could take three to five months.

Basti earned about $167,000 a year as undersheriff. The salary range for the undersheriff position is $140,254 to $170,476.

Parkinson had tapped Basti as undersheriff after he was elected in 2010.

Basti, 55, started as a dispatcher and has worked as a deputy, detective, sergeant and commander.

As undersheriff, he also continued to oversee the custody division, which includes the main jail, its court services division and the department’s honor farm.