Marking his 40th anniversary in law enforcement last month earned Sheriff Ron Pierini another stripe for his sleeve, and a decision to seek his fifth term in office.
Pierini, 61, said he’s not ready to retire when his term expires in December 2014.
Pierini believes he’s the senior sheriff in the state, “possibly the most senior person in the PERS (Public Employees Retirement System),” he joked in an interview.
“I’m 61. I don’t feel it by any means, and I enjoy my job. I have the energy to continue on, I’ve been approached by people in the community to do just that,” Pierini said.
If successful, he is committed to serving the full term which would expire in 2018.
“I will go for the whole term, I am not one of those people who runs, then quits two years into the term and appoints their successor,” he said.
That’s how Pierini got his job when former Sheriff Jerry Maple retired in 1997. Pierini, then undersheriff, was appointed by Douglas County commissioners as Maple’s replacement.
“It seems like yesterday, but I’ve got a lot of things to do,” he said.
In reviewing the department’s accomplishments, Pierini pointed to the $4 million jail expansion. He is proud that the jail is the only one in the state accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
“That certification saved money over the years,” Pierini said. “We don’t get sued, we have procedures and standards to insure our inmates get services and we will continue with that.”
He is proud of Douglas County’s “zero tolerance” for gang activity.
“We have a relatively safe community. You don’t see the same headlines that you do in our sister counties with ‘drive-by shootings,’” he said.
The department has had to maintain its drug enforcement and anti-gang task forces in the face of dwindling federal funding.
“Our arrests and prosecutions have been extremely successful,” he said.
He also cited the department’s strides in technology which have absorbed some of the impact from the loss of $2 million in the annual budget and the layoff of 10 employees.
“The technology has helped us be more efficient to do our jobs better,” Pierini said.
He said support from the Sheriff’s Advsiory Committee has pumped about $600,000 in private donations into the department for equipment the budget would not cover.
He said the sheriff’s office gets very few complaints about the officers who respond to 40,000 calls for service annually.
“We’re tough on complaints,” he said. “We give our officers the best professional training and tools to do their jobs. We believe the agency is highly respected in the community.”
He said traffic issues prompt the most calls to the department, “but there isn’t a sheriff’s office or police department in the country where the No. 1 problem isn’t traffic.”
Pierini said he has six officers responsible for Douglas County’s 750 square miles in each shift 24 hours a day.
“If we were in a compacted, smaller community, things would be very different,” he said.
The sheriff credited the department’s volunteers with making a difference.
“No. 1 is our Search & Rescue Unit,” he said. “It’s rated No. 1 in the state of Nevada, and the volunteers respond to 60-70 callouts a year. We have 60 volunteers in citizens’ patrol doing things we don’t have time to do including parking enforcement and traffic control.”
Pierini praised the contributions of members of TRIAD and the Explorers.
“A lot of young people followed that career path based on what they learned in Explorers or Reserves,” he said.
Pierini started out in the Explorers in Carson City when he was 17.
“I got to understand what law enforcement was, I wanted to do it,” he said.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at University of Nevada, Reno.
“And I have been doing it ever since. It was an opportunity I wanted to purse, and I have never changed,” he said.
For all the accolades and the 10 stripes on his sleeve, Pierini said his greatest joy is service.
“To serve is probably the best of thing of all. We try very hard to be the most professional agency there is,” he said.