Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, Sept. 28 @ 5:31 p.m.
Supervisors Vote 4-1 to Appoint Randall Waltz as Del Norte Sheriff; Starkey Questions Accelerated Process
District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey cast the sole dissenting vote Tuesday in appointing Randall Waltz as Del Norte County sheriff, calling upon her colleagues to seek more applicants for the vacant position.
Noting that several counties were facing similar vacancies, Starkey said she was concerned about the lack of discussion as to what the process would be to find a replacement for Del Norte County’s previous sheriff, Erik Apperson.
Opening the position up for applicants, even for a short seven-day window, would give the Board of Supervisors a chance to ensure they are qualified, Starkey told her colleagues.
“We’re five people making a decision that’s normally made by 27,000 people,” she said. “I think we need to flesh it out a lot more than just make the appointment for the guy who’s currently in the role.”
Despite Starkey’s objections, the Board of Supervisors approved Waltz’s appointment as Del Norte County Sheriff-Coroner.
Apperson announced his resignation on July 27 citing his family’s health needs, telling supervisors he would leave his office on Oct. 1.
Apperson said Waltz, who has been Del Norte County’s undersheriff for about a year, would serve as his replacement until the end of his term in June 2022.
According to Starkey, Apperson left before the Board of Supervisors could officially appoint Waltz as his replacement.
On Tuesday, Starkey said she had researched California Government Code 25304, which doesn’t specify a time period or standard for appointing positions that are normally elected.
She said she’s also been watching the actions of other counties who have had make appointments for otherwise elected positions. In Shasta County, for example, the Board of Supervisors held a discussion before appointing a replacement for its sheriff, Starkey said.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is actively seeking applicants for its vacant sheriff position, Starkey said.
“I would motion we bring this back or we open it up for an application or go through that process and put it on the next board agenda with options from county counsel or the County Administrative Officer other than appointing someone right now,” Starkey said.
In a statement to the Wild Rivers Outpost, Starkey noted that when former District Attorney Dale Trigg resigned in 2017, the Board of Supervisors conducted interviews when seeking to fill his position.
Starkey said Tuesday she was opposed to the way the process played out, not to Waltz’s appointment as sheriff. She said she will support Waltz in his new position.
“He has only been in our community for a little over a year and I wanted to make sure our community had the opportunity to thoroughly vet him before appointing him to this position,” she said.
Despite acknowledging Starkey’s point, her colleagues stood by Apperson’s recommendation for Waltz as his replacement. District 1 Supervisor Darrin Short and District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz praised Walt’s knowledge of the sheriff’s department.
Board Chairman Chris Howard, who represents District 3, said Waltz’s status as “kind of an unknown” could be advantageous.
“An unknown is able to listen to concerns in the department without having a position already taken,” Howard said. “Undersheriff Waltz presented a neutral position and created a positive attitude and personality change, at least within the sheriff’s department. It’s positive momentum for the sheriff’s department to move forward in what could otherwise have been a surprise for the department and a let down for the community.”
District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, who made a motion to approve Waltz’s appointment, said called for consistency, noting that Waltz’s remaining term, a year and a half, isn’t long.
Del Norte County residents who spoke during public comment disagreed with Howard, however. Robert Derego, noting that the sheriff is among the highest paid jobs in Del Norte County, said he felt Starkey’s request was reasonable.
Tonya Pearcey also agreed with Starkey, saying she didn’t see a rush in finding a replacement for Apperson.
“I think we should take that time and make sure we have the best person in the position even though it’s only a year and a half,” Pearcey said. “A lot of damage can be done in a year and a half."