Merced County Board of Supervisors: Undersheriff Tom Cavallero likely to be interim appointee

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comDecember 13, 2013 

— As Sheriff Mark Pazin publicly announced his retirement Friday from the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, he noted that the “2014 campaign season is upon us.”

Pazin, 57, confirmed he is stepping down from the Sheriff’s Department to accept an appointment as chief of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Branch.

Undersheriff Tom Cavallero is expected to be appointed by the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to complete the final year of Pazin’s term in office, according to the board agenda released Friday.

Cavallero, 49, insisted it is still too early to consider the 2014 campaign and declined to answer questions about the election, at least until the Board of Supervisors weighs in next week.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to even consider answering that question at this time,” Cavallero said. “I don’t want to do anything that would diminish or interfere with the process.”

Cavallero said ensuring a stable transition for the public is his main focus as Pazin prepares to leave office.

But Pazin’s departure opens the field to many potential candidates. One veteran law enforcement official on Friday confirmed his intentions to run for sheriff, while another said he is considering a bid for the office.

Frank Swiggart, a longtime sheriff's deputy who has been head of the Merced College Police Department for the last three years, told the Sun-Star he intends to run for sheriff in 2014.

“Sheriff Pazin does leave some big shoes to fill, but I think I’m up for it, definitely,” said Swiggart, 47.

Pat Lunney, chief investigator at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and a former Merced police chief, also told the Sun-Star he is “strongly considering” making a bid for sheriff. Lunney, 66, will likely make “some type of an announcement” next week.

“I’m not ready to confirm whether I’m running today. I have a lot of supporters I’d like to talk to first, and I’m very flattered to be approached and considered,” Lunney. “I will say that, over the years, I think I’ve developed a management style that would fit very well in the Sheriff’s Department and would be very effective.”

According to the Merced County Election’s Office, candidates can pull papers to seek office beginning Dec. 30. The 2014 campaign season could be a busy one with two races each for the Board of Supervisors and the Merced County Superior Court bench, as well as all county offices including the district attorney, auditor, assessor, treasurer-tax collector and the sheriff.

For his part, Pazin said he would not endorse any candidate or weigh in on the sheriff’s campaign next year, saying that, in his new role with the governor’s office, it would not be appropriate.

“I’m a governor’s appointee, so I won’t get involved in that,” Pazin said. “I can guarantee you that.”

This story has been corrected from an earlier version.

Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at rparsons@mercedsunstar.com or (209) 385-2482.

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