GOLD BEACH – County Commissioner George Rhodes read a letter of resignation from a county sheriff’s deputy at the close of Wednesday’s commission meeting that Rhodes said shows that county officers are not overpaid like some detractors claim but are instead underpaid.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must advise you of a conditional job offer that was given to me today by the Tillamook Police Department,” Deputy James Harrell wrote.
“Tillamook PD has offered me a seniority job out of two positions available. The starting pay will be about $3.00 more an hour and will increase to nearly $5.00 after completion of the probationary period. They have also offered to help move me and my family and give us a benefit package that anyone could not say no to,” Harrell wrote.
“Due to the current funding problems with the county and the uncertainty of stable income for my family, I have accepted their offer,” he wrote.
“I was born and raised in this county and have never wanted to leave this area. I thought by getting this opportunity almost four years ago, I would be able to retire and someday own a home to raise my children here. I have always felt the need to give back to my community for all that they put up with and gave me as I matured over the years. Unfortunately our current pay is not able to support the high cost of living in the area. I wish it was,” Harrell wrote.
Sheriff John Bishop said Friday he could not blame Harrell or another deputy awaiting word about a job in Medford.
“It is what it is,” Bishop said.
“I don’t blame these guys. They want sustainable funding so they know they have a job,” the sheriff said.
Curry County road deputies currently make about $2,967 a month, or $17.12 an hour, which is five to 10 percent more than what county dispatchers and correctional officers make.
Bishop said there are some people in the county that think deputies make a lot of money, but that’s not true.
“This went on and on before I became sheriff and probably will be after I’m sheriff. We just can’t pay them the market value around the state or other states. We will continue to look for good candidates, train them and keep them as long as we can,” Bishop said.
He noted that Harrell, who worked in the Curry County jail for two years and as a road deputy for two, is looking at much more money with better benefits at Tillamook.
“I have another who is in the running for Medford. I don’t know the status of him yet. It’s probably safe to say most any deputy, if the right opportunity came along, sustainable and more money, they would look at it,” Bishop said.
“A lot of us who are here, my wife and I have gotten several offers from around the state, we chose to stay here. We don’t want to leave. But if something happened to the county, obviously we have to keep our positions open,” Bishop said.
He said knowing the job will be there and it will have a livable wage help keep people.
Bishop said if he keeps a new deputy for two years, he’s broken even.
“In the first year, there’s four months at academy, usually six months with a training officer. That’s 10 months out of 12. Two years is about the break-even point,” he said.
“In my opinion, it’s usually five years before a police officer has done enough different cases to feel completely comfortable,” Bishop said.
Harrell wrote that his decision had not come easy and is in no way based on the department’s morale or leadership.
“I know going into this new chapter I will probably not find better co-workers, command staff or working environment,” he wrote. “I want to give a special thank you to everyone that has given me the chance to do my dream job and to further help my community.”