Monday Nov 02 2009
By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
Top law enforcement post replacement in doubt
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on the race for sheriff. El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves’ recent announcement that he will step down effective Dec. 26 irritates some of the seven candidates vying for the position. It’s not necessarily his decision to vacate the top-ranking position earlier than expected that displeases the politicians, but Neves’ recommendation that Capt. Craig Therkildsen, who is one of the seven, be considered to fill the position in the interim. Therkildsen is one of seven people who have announced their candidacy for the office. If the board does not wish to appoint Therkildsen because he is a candidate, Neves recommends appointing Undersheriff Fred Kollar as interim sheriff. “Appointing one of the candidates as sheriff before the June 2010 election would be an unfair campaign advantage, and a disservice to voters and Sheriff’s Office personnel, who are arguably divided on the topic of Jeff Neves’ successor,” said candidate Bob Luca. In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, dated Oct. 23, Neves said, “The decision was not an easy one and certainly one with many mixed emotions. However, after 30-plus years, it is the right one for my family and I.” Candidate Ernest Hillman, 61, a retired undersheriff with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office echoes Lucas’ sentiments. “I don’t think any of the seven running should be appointed,” he said. “It will interfere with the election process. It would give that individual an unfair advantage.” The seven candidates include those with backgrounds in law enforcement from El Dorado and Amador counties as well as the Sacramento Valley. Hillman, 61, has called El Dorado County his home for the past 46 years. He was hired to work with the department shortly after his return from serving with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. Hillman said he was running because it was something he really wanted to do. “The short answer as to why I’m running, is because it’s that I want to go back to the department and make a positive impact, Hillman said. “I’ve held every sworn position with the exception of the sheriff’s position.” Luca, 63, is a retired chief from California Bureau of Investigations. It is his first time running for public office. So why now? “I have a lot of experience in law enforcement and the private sector,” Luca said. “I realized that the sheriff’s office needs someone who can manage especially in these economic times.” He ran because he feels he can “make a difference.” Luca has roughly three decades of experience n law enforcement working as a Special Agent in Charge, San Jose Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, an undercover narcotic agency as well as a commander with the Narcotics Task Force, Allied Agencies Narcotics Enforcement Team in Santa Clara County. Other candidates will be profiled in next week’s Telegraph.