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Local officials wrestle with Sheriff Bishop’s resignation

Elected officials and others throughout the county expressed their dismay, but not surprise, over Friday’s announcement that Curry County Sheriff John Bishop has resigned.

“Oooh, I hadn’t heard the news,” said Commissioner David Itzen on Friday. “I suspected. But there’s nothing that should be surprising about this course of events, with the stability of the county still in doubt. This is huge.”

“He’s been a great leader,” said Gold Beach Police Chief Dixon Andrews. “He will be missed; there will definitely be some big shoes to fill. But the book’s not over; the story’s still being written.”

Itzen, saying he “will have to start shifting my thinking,” said the situation could become “very discouraging.”

County commissioners will now have to appoint a replacement, who will then be up for election to the position in November. Also on the ballot is, ironically, a measure asking for a 68-cent per $1,000 assessed valuation on property to raise money for the jail.

That election requires a “double majority” of voters, meaning 50 percent of registered voters must vote, and then must vote in favor of the measure.

“I know he’s been discouraged on the lack of unanimity on the part of the (commissioner) board,” Itzen said. “It’s a high-stress job he’s had, and he’s carried it out with distinction. He’s dedicated to the community, but I think there comes a point you can’t expect to carry this load on the backs of your employees.”

“I’m stunned,” said Commissioner Susan Brown, who hadn’t heard but expressed her dismay at the news. “I’m going to have to mull this over. He’s talked about it before, so it’s not like a huge surprise. My mind is just spinning. I have a lot of respect for John.”

She admitted commissioners have some responsibility in the situation that prompted Bishop’s resignation.

“Personal responsibility?” Brown said. “There’s always a level of personal responsibility. I probably should’ve pushed harder and louder about getting citizens involved (to develop a solution for the county’s fiscal woes). “We’re just going to have to tackle it, just going to have to figure it out.”

Itzen feels the board has done its best.

“I feel very positive about my efforts to help the problem and, even now, feel like we’re doing everything we can,” Itzen said. “It certainly would have made it easier to have all three commissioners agree on (past tax measures). I know that’s one thing that’s really bothered him. We’re at the point at which the county commissioners have been warning for years; we’re at that point, as predicted.”

Commissioner David Brock Smith said, “I have wrestled with the news of Sheriff Bishop’s retirement. Over the past few months we’ve also lost our county sanitarian, juvenile director, veterans service officer and road master. I pray we can work together to solve our funding issues to stay any other departures.”

Other feedback

Former Commissioner George Rhodes, with whom Bishop worked in the early years of the county’s fiscal decline, said he thinks Bishop’s leaving will put the county in yet another difficult bind.

“But I can’t blame him, considering the circumstances of not being able to get the funding to provide services; it’s frustrating for everyone,” Rhodes said. “It’s going to be tough to find a replacement, certainly of his quality and integrity. His leadership will certainly be missed, but he has to do what’s best for him and his family.

“He’s fought a hard fight,” Rhodes added. “You can’t blame him for giving up.”

“This will be a huge loss for our county,” said Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “It’s been in the works for a long time. I could not have blamed John if he’d done this two years ago. I hope everything works out fine for him; he deserves a break. Sheriff John’s been a great sheriff.”

Hedenskog cited the numerous grants Bishop has obtained for the department over the years, including those to outfit the Search and Rescue team, funds to replace the aging jail and others. He has his hand in a little of everything at the county level, including 911, the jail, emergency services, parole and probation, the courts, the district attorney’s office and others, Hedenskog said.

Dave Snazuk an owner of the Best Western Beachfront Inn who has fought for sheriff protection in the port, puts some blame on county commissioners.

“I predicted this would happen; I don’t blame him,” he said. “The commissioners need to work together and agree on something and get it done. The hospital was able to get its bond measure passed because the board was all united on what they wanted. I don’t see that with the commissioners.

Harbor Fire-Rescue Chief John Brazil said, “This is a great loss to our county and public safety services, including fire departments. Sheriff Bishop has provided great support for all public safety within our county with little support from the voters. The public doesn’t get it. We need the support of the public to provide the services expected.”

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