Stanislaus Sheriff Christianson announces retirement at end of current term

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson is pictured in formation with his deputies at funeral services (05-23-17) for deputy Jason Garner at CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto, Calif.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson is pictured in formation with his deputies at funeral services (05-23-17) for deputy Jason Garner at CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto, Calif. Marty Bicek

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson tweeted Monday morning that he will retire at the end of his current term in office.

In a letter addressed to family, friends and the community, Christianson said, “Next to my wife and beautiful children, serving as your Sheriff has been the greatest experience of my life ... .”

The 54-year-old, who has been with the Sheriff’s Department since 1996 and was elected sheriff in 2006, said the decision to retire was not easy and came “only after much thought, deliberation and considering my family goals.”

He noted that his retirement will conclude 12 years of continuous elected service and nearly 30 years in public safety. His term expires at the end of 2018.,

Christianson’s letter runs through highlights of his time in office. Since he first was elected, he said, “we have created one of the most successful and innovative law enforcement organizations in the central valley.” The department has grown stronger, he writes, citing the completed Public Safety Restoration Plan supported and funded by the county Board of Supervisors. The department has added public safety facilities, 552 jail beds, a medical/mental health care unit, a day reporting center, a new coroner’s facility and a Re-entry and Enhanced Alternatives to Custody Training (REACT) Center.

In an email to The Bee later Monday, the sheriff said, “My letter to the community speaks for itself,” and declined further comment.

In his letter, Christianson also endorses Patterson Police Services Chief Jeff Dirkse as his successor. The 45-year-old Dirkse on Monday announced his candidacy for sheriff in the June 2018 election. He told The Bee that a few years ago, he reflected on his career advancement in the department – STING detective, rural crimes detective, patrol sergeant and internal affairs sergeant before becoming a lieutenant and Patterson police chief in 2015 – and decided he’d be interested in becoming sheriff.

He said Christianson has done a great job and he never considered challenging him, but he told the sheriff in so many words, “When you’re done, I could be interested,” depending on Dirkse’s age and family situation.

When Christianson indicated to him his intention not to seek re-election, the Patterson chief decided the time was right. Of the “vision” Christianson cited, Dirkse said, “I don’t think we have any issues in our department and I want to continue what he’s done. That being said, I’m my own person and eventually there could be things we’d end up changing.”

Christianson last was elected in 2014, claiming about two-thirds of the vote to fend off a challenge by one of his employees, Deputy Tom Letras.

For a time, Dirkse’s predecessor as Patterson Police Services chief, Lt. Tori Hughes, also was in the race. Hughes had been called to testify against her boss in a 2012 trial that revealed the department’s “limp, lame and lazy” list of injured workers, prompting a public apology from the sheriff and an investigation by county leaders.

Hughes raised more campaign money than Letras but later pulled out of the race because of an undisclosed medical problem. Eventually she gave tacit support to Christianson, saying the department “has many current positive projects underway needing current experience to keep our department moving forward.”

Christianson’s first election came after a tough battle with then-Assistant Sheriff Mark Puthuff. He successfully defended his post four years later against Rob Jackson, who went on to become police chief in Turlock.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327