Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Feb. 1 @ 5:14 p.m. / Elections
District 2 Supervisor Candidate Rivers Drown Elaborates On His Plans To Bolster DNSO's Ranks, Resurrect Drug Task Force
Rivers Drown has a plan.
Speaking at a Del Norte Association of Realtors candidate forum on Friday, the District 2 supervisor contender said he had a plan to resurrect a drug task force and bring in an army of deputies to the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office. But he didn’t elaborate on how he’d do it.
On Monday, Drown told the Wild Rivers Outpost that he’d tap into his experience as a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recruiter and his former career at Pelican Bay State Prison.
So, why not run for sheriff?
“We have a sheriff,” Drown told the Outpost. “He’s brand new. He’s learning the ropes. I’ve known him for years. I think he’s going to settle in and do a great job.”
Drown said he’d been thinking about a run for supervisor for about two years, but the timing wasn’t right. Now, “the stars have aligned” -- his opponent’s term is up and he retired from the prison in June as a sergeant. Within a few months, Drown was filing his election paperwork.
After a quarter of a century in law enforcement, Drown said he can help out from a different angle.
“We can talk about a strategic plan, we can talk about fixing potholes in the road,” he said. “But if this county is not safe, no one will want to come here. And I’m not just talking about tourists.”
Drown is running against incumbent Valerie Starkey for the District 2 seat. The district he hopes to represent on the Board of Supervisors encompasses portions of Crescent City along Pebble Beach Drive as well as Point St. George, along the south side of Washington Boulevard and parts of Northcrest Drive.
Drown moved to Crescent City as a freshman in high school in 1988 and though he moved back to his hometown of Montrose, Colorado where he graduated, he said he established his roots in Del Norte County.
He met his girlfriend and future wife in 1988. In 1992, Drown graduated from high school, joined the U.S. Navy and married. In 1996, after four years on the U.S.S. Nimitz in the Persian Gulf, Drown moved back to Crescent City and worked for his father-in-law as a welder.
In May 1998 he was hired at Pelican Bay State Prison and joined the SWAT team, which led to his career as a narcotics officer.
“In 2004 I was assigned to the Security Squad, it’s basically the investigations unit inside the prison,” he said. “I began getting training from an older more seasoned narcotics officer and I became trained in the identification of narcotics and search warrants and that led me to being able to be part of the Drug Taskforce that was established by the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office at the time.”
Drown said he was the prison’s liaison on the drug task force, which enabled him to work on the streets. His job also involved intercepting illegal marijuana grows on federal lands.
After a brief nine months as a parole agent in 2010, Drown went back to the prison and became SWAT commander between 2012-16.
“The cool thing is from 2012-16 I was able to bring my SWAT team members out on the streets,” he said. “We had an MOU with the warden and the sheriff that any time they requested assistance, we [were] sent. Me and my guys were going out with Richard Griffin, who served 600 successful search warrants. That was very fun, arresting dope dealers and drug pushers and all that sort of thing.”
Drown said the primary reason he’s running is because he believes he can use his 25 years of experience on Pelican Bay’s SWAT team and as a liaison between the prison and the county’s drug task force.
“I speak the language and have all the connections still,” Drown said. “During my last six years at the institution, I was a recruiter for CDCR. I was trained to recruit for the department and so I have that in my quiver as well.”
Though he admits his “army of deputies” statement was tongue-in-cheek, Drown insists that hiring local is a key aspect of his plan. Sign-on bonuses of $3,000 to $4,000 and an annual retention bonus of about $1,500 would get them to stay, he said. Drown also proposed having new recruits commit to working with the DNSO for four years.
By the time four years has passed, they won’t want to leave Del Norte County, Drown said.
“By two years, they’ve got an apartment, some of them have bought a house and the next thing you know they have kids here,” he said.
Del Norte County has the money to do that, Drown said. He said he met with the county auditor, Clint Schaad, who showed him how much Measure R money Del Norte County has.
Del Norte County voters approved the Measure R 1 percent sales tax measure in 2020 and narrowly defeated a repeal in 2022. The dollars it generated were earmarked for law enforcement and emergency response; road maintenance and pothole repair; to address blight and maintain infrastructure; and maintaining dispatch for fire, law enforcement and ambulance.
Drown said that Schaad told him there was enough Measure R money to fund a drug task force for about 10 years. Drown said that money could also be used for sign-on bonuses and retention pay at the DNSO.
Beefing up the sheriff’s office and reinstating a drug task force are two relatively short-term things Drown wants to do as a county supervisor. Longer-term goals leading an effort to repeal Proposition 47 and AB 2372.
Approved by California voters in 2014, Prop 47 aimed to reduce prison overcrowding by reclassifying offenses like minor theft and drug-related charges as misdemeanors instead of felonies. Adopted by California lawmakers in 2010, AB 2372 made the value of most thefts under $950 misdemeanors. The previous threshold had been $400.
Drown said both those actions were dangerous and now even Democratic and Republican lawmakers are saying it’s a mistake.
“I knew it was a mistake the second [the legislature] brought it up and passed it,” he said. “Now after 10, 12, 14 years of living with these terrible policies, California voters know that was dumb.”
Drown says he has to get elected to the seat to fully grok what a county supervisor does. But after speaking with some potential constituents, there are a few less lofty goals he has in mind.
“Some people want more street lighting for certain areas, and I would have to agree,” he said. “Some neighborhoods and streets are just dark and people worry about their children being out past sunset and they would like more lighting.”
California’s primary election will be held on March 5. Ballots will be sent to Del Norte County voters starting Monday. For more information about local elections, visit the Del Norte County Elections Office website.