Curry County Sheriff’s Capt. Mick Espinoza has announced Tuesday he is retiring — from the state’s retirement program — on Aug. 1 and moving to the Eugene area later this summer.

Espinoza, four other deputies and Sheriff John Ward all “retired” from the Public Employee Retirement System and were “rehired” to continue their same work. It enables them to collect their retirement pay while receiving a paycheck upon their rehire. Espinoza will stay an additional month to help find his replacement, Ward said.

“I’ve pretty much done all the things on my goals sheet,” Espinoza said. “I just think it’s time.”

Espinoza joined the sheriff’s department here four years ago as a lieutenant and was quickly promoted to captain.

“He’s one of the best; he’s done a lot,” said Sheriff John Ward. “His knowledge and experience, helping with training young deputies, his experience with being in a larger sheriff’s office — it runs the gamut.”

Espinoza said the decision wasn’t easy, but trying to keep up with his 13-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter is even tougher, and would be easier if he were closer to where they live, in Bend.

“I had been kicking it around,” he said of the decision. “I’m leaving it while I feel like I’m on top. I think we’re in a good place; we’ve got good people on, there are many people who put in hard work and do a tremendous job. This will continue to roll on.”

He said he has no immediate career plans, although he imagines he will pursue something in the non-profit realm, or in a capacity where he can give back to his community.

His wife, Kim, is a district sales manager for Wampler Sausage and has more freedom to travel in her position, he said. They only recently married, but grew up together.

“Community service will always be in my heart,” Espinoza said. “Anything to do with working with the public. You never know. You might see me open up a lawn service and do yard care.”

Espinoza has worked 26 years in law enforcement, starting in Deschutes County. He went on to earn an executives certificate, the highest level of certification in law enforcement, and graduate from the National FBI Academy.

“He has a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Ward said. “He helped define and redefine our policies, worked up the jail matrix system, assisted us in trying to get a law enforcement special district. He’s well-respected, well-liked. He’ll be a hard one to replace.”

Espinoza said he remembered talking with Deschutes Sheriff Darrell Davidson before he was involved in law enforcement.

“I swore up and down if he just gave me a shot, I’d give him a 110 percent every day,” Espinoza said. “I think I did OK. I didn’t envision the ride being like this. I’ve seen a lot that’s helped me grow, mature. It’s been one incredible ride; I’m grateful for it. I’m glad I get to say this is where I put things to an end.”

He’s seen a lot of good and bad in his career.

“I’ve done this 26 years,” Espinoza said. “This job takes a toll on people in many different ways. I’ve been talking to people who have retired and moved to different careers, and I hear the excitement and possibility in their voices.”

He’s going to miss the people, the pride in wearing the uniform, the support he’s received from coworkers and the community and the ability to make a positive impact in peoples lives.

“I’m not going to miss the frustration of not having to sell budgets and beg borrow and steal to make it work,” he said. “Those are tough times, when you have a lot of families depending on that. It’s a tough time around budget; I won’t miss squabbling over trying to move it forward.”

He’s also not going to miss the tragic events to which he has had to respond over the years and the attempts to help families through terrible incidents.

“You take a piece of that with you. It stays with you,” he said. “It’s a tough one. A few of us can tell you what that’s like.”

And he’s going to miss the community.

“This place is awesome,” Espinoza said. “I’ve made so many good friends. I’ve gotten involved in community. I’ve really enjoyed it. I try to give back; I appreciate the support I’ve gotten from people. I’ve made lifelong friends.”

He’s in his second year of assisting with the county’s Juvenile Department’s flag football team, has helped in Agness for the Rogue Rally footrace and numerous Rotary Club events.

“It’s important, when people see you outside the uniform, that you too, are member of the community and believe in it,” he said. “It’s been a blessing.”

And he’ll be back — his children made him swear to return for vacations.

“I have a second family here,” Espinoza said. “Curry County. It grows on you. I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m pretty excited about this next chapter.”

Ward said he and Espinoza aren’t overly worried about finding someone to take his place.

“I’ve got talent; we’ll continue on,” Ward said. “It’ll be a bit of a hardship, but we’ll do just fine. He made the place better, I’ll tell you that. We wish him all the best.”

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