My cellphone number isn’t exactly a state secret, but I was shocked when I got a message from Sheriff Adam Christianson after a piece I wrote back in 2016 about how he might respond to the high-capacity magazine ban. I wondered in print if he come into my house and blow open my gunsafe.
Christianson and I had traded emails before, but I don’t remember giving him my cell number. And while the text wasn’t threatening, a point was made: he could reach out and get the last word whenever he wanted.
Only the ambitious poke the press, just ask any grey-haired East Coast journalist for the handwritten corrections that arrived after anything was written about a certain crazed New York City developer. That frenemy of the media now leads our nation, and when he tweets a dis about some obscure pundit we all think, “Bruh, you’re the President. Let it go.”
I appreciate our Sheriff because he answers me within hours and in full paragraphs, but when he stooped to comment on my commentary, I winced. As naïve as it sounds, we want our sheriff, any sheriff, to be above politics.
My suspicions seemed confirmed when I heard Christianson wasn’t running for reelection. I figured he must be playing possum for a bigger office. State assembly, at least. But when I caught up with him during a recruiting visit to Oakdale back in February, he swore he was retiring to Montana to look after his folks.
You don’t doubt a man like Christianson when he gives his word. The way he talks to you one-on-one, squares up just 18 inches away, shoulders back, direct eye contact and hands relaxed but high on his belt. He seems ready to move if the situation gets kinetic.
Juan Alanis, one of two front-running candidates to replace him, braced me the same way a few weeks ago at a neighborhood meet-and-greet, and I told him so.
Alanis took it as a compliment saying, “We all love Adam!” he said. Then Alanis offered up some on-the-job stories to cement the comparisons of Christianson to John Wayne. Things turned serious when we talked about their relationship now.
“When I told (Christianson) I was running, he crossed his arms and just stared at me. It got real awkward and we haven’t talked since,” Alanis said with a slow head shake. For all Alanis’ admiration, Sheriff Duke went and endorsed the other guy.
That would be Jeff Dirkse, the other candidate for Stanislaus County Sheriff.
By way of research, I asked a Turlock detective what he knew about Dirkse. “Decent guy,” he said with a shrug. “A couple years ago we had a situation, man in a house, needed overwatch. He skittered up this flimsy trellis thing to the roof without a word.” End of research.
With Christianson’s backing and a reputation for action, I’m leaning toward Dirkse. But I warn both lawmen, I will straight up write in “Cincinnatus” for sheriff if they keep up, well, campaigning so hard.
Between them, they’ve killed more trees than the Rim Fire for their yard signs, and their supporters have turned Facebook and newspaper posts into a proxy war that would embarrass Syria. The citizens of Stanislaus County want noble, humble and even reluctant protectors in power. Like Cincinnatus.
About 480 BC, the legend goes, a mature statesman was plowing his field when a delegation from Rome approached. An invasion was imminent and Cincinnatus was chosen as the general/king because “in him were the courage and resolution equal to the majestic authority of that office,” according to ancient historian Titus Livy. He thought they were crazy, choosing him, and tried to turn it down until the toga-wearing senators convinced him the danger to the republic was real. He accepted reluctantly, then bum-rushed the senate, suspended all public and private business and got all men of military age to come fully armed to camp with five days of rations.
Cincinnatus left his farm, led Rome to victory and returned to the plow in 15 days flat.
It’s not easy living up to legends like Cincinnatus or Christianson, but Alanis and Dirkse aren’t even trying.
All that will be left of the Sheriff’s Department for the victor will be a hollow, nasty placed staffed by jilted lifers or hangers-on unless these two start acting like the good men they are.
Steve Taylor, a resident of Oakdale, is a behavior analyst. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.