Opinion

Editorial: Ian Parkinson is strongest candidate for sheriff

San Luis Obispo County residents are fortunate to have an exceptionally strong field of candidates in the sheriff’s race. Narrowing it down to a single recommendation has not been easy; we believe every one of the six candidates is smart, capable, brings a wealth of law enforcement experience to the table and has a sincere interest in improving the department.

Two candidates, though, rose to the top of our list — San Luis Obispo Police Capt. Ian Parkinson and former Pismo Beach Police Chief Joe Cortez. Either man would be an excellent choice.

Cortez has been chief of three police departments and has proven himself a strong leader capable of dealing with difficult and stressful situations. The 2006 fatal shooting at a Denny’s restaurant in Pismo, which drew national attention, is one example.

Ultimately, though, we believe Parkinson’s combination of law enforcement experience, coupled with his knowledge of issues facing the various communities, makes him best suited to lead the county’s largest law enforcement organization. We also believe that the respect he’s gained during his 26-year career in local law enforcement will serve him well in rebuilding trust and restoring morale following the scandals that occurred on Sheriff Pat Hedge’s watch.

We also fully support his proposals to improve and professionalize the department. Those include re-establishing an internal affairs investigation unit; auditing the property evidence room; and expanding the home detention program to help ease overcrowding in the jail. He also has an ambitious plan to develop a long-term, strategic plan that would spell out goals for the various communities and explain how those would be met. He sees that as a way to hold the sheriff accountable — and that’s a measuring stick that’s been sorely lacking under the current administration.

Some background: Parkinson, 45, began his career as an officer in Morro Bay in 1984, transferred to San Luis Obispo in 1988 and then rose through the ranks. He’s been involved in several interdepartmental operations, including development of a regional SWAT team that included multiple police departments. He’s also been chief of security for the Mid-State Fair for 18 years, which has given him first-hand knowledge of issues affecting North County.

While he has not served as a police chief, we believe Parkinson’s experiences as a second-in-command at SLO PD have provided ample opportunity to develop the leadership skills he’ll need as sheriff.

As captain, he’s been responsible for budgeting for the department — not an easy job in this time of fiscal crisis — and he’s been in charge of uniformed patrol operations, with 40 staff members reporting to him.

Like Cortez, he, too, has shown himself capable of handling a variety of challenging situations. For example, he served as operations leader over Mardi Gras weekend for several years and was instrumental in carrying out successful strategies to put an end to the out-of-control partying.

We’ve been impressed, too, by Parkinson’s efforts to familiarize himself with the issues facing the unincorporated communities. He’s been attending community service district and community advisory council meetings around the county to find out what’s on the minds of local residents. If elected sheriff, he pledges that he’ll “absolutely” continue those outreach efforts. We hope so; we believe it’s essential that the next sheriff have a visible presence.

Parkinson also has been touring county facilities and meeting with county officials in various departments to learn more about the budget and other critical issues. That’s good; however, we believe Parkinson will have some on-the-job learning to do when it comes to dealing with the political realities of lobbying for funds and resources for his department.

For the record, Parkinson does not have a college degree, and that could be viewed as a liability. He is in the process of completing an on-line degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College; he needs about six more classes, he said.

Given his extensive on the-job-experience, we don’t believe a lack of a handful of classes disqualifies him in any way. On the contrary, the fact that he’s pursuing a degree — in addition to working and running a campaign — is another indicator of his determination, energy and level of commitment.

We believe Ian Parkinson would bring those same attributes to the position of sheriff. We strongly urge voters to support him in the June 8 primary election.

Sheriff’s race

Position: Sheriff

Responsibilities: Oversees 377 employees and a $57.2 million annual budget

Salary: $182,104 per year

Candidates:

Mark Adams, deputy, county Sheriff’s Department

Joe Cortez, former Pismo Beach police chief

Ben Hall, commander, county Sheriff’s Department

Jerry Lenthall, former San Luis Obispo police sergeant and former county supervisor

Ian Parkinson, captain, San Luis Obispo Police Department

Michael “Tex” Teixeira, retired sergeant, California Highway Patrol

The Tribune endorses: Ian Parkinson

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