Sheriff will seek fourth term

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini remembers his first day as a law enforcement officer " April 15, 1973 " as if it were yesterday.

"It was a Sunday swing shift at 4 p.m. I remember the feeling I had putting that uniform on for the first time," he said. "It's never gone away."

Pierini said he hopes voters will elect him to another four years when his term expires next year.

"I'm 100 percent sure I am going to run for another term. I enjoy the job, the people I work with. I love this community and there is a lot to accomplish. I have a high energy level and I hope to lead this organization for another four years," Pierini said.

Pierini, 57, began his law enforcement career as a 17-year-old cadet in Carson City. He became a Carson City deputy at age 21 after earning his degree in criminal justice from University of Nevada, Reno.

He joined the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in 1976. One year later, he took over the sheriff's substation at Lake Tahoe where he worked for the next 18 years.

"I really enjoyed Lake Tahoe," Pierini said. "It was almost like being chief of police."

At that time, 80 percent of the criminal activity was at Lake Tahoe with 20 percent in Carson Valley.

"We were really busy at the Lake in the 1970s and 1980s," Pierini said.

He was appointed sheriff in 1997 to fill out the unexpired term after Jerry Maple retired. Pierini has been unopposed for two terms.

He credits his success to his administrative staff and the caliber of employees the sheriff's office employs.

"I am really, really pleased with the administrative staff I have and the dedicated, level-headed, ethical team approach we've adopted. I think we have one of the highest respected agencies in the state," he said.

Pierini said it takes up to three months to hire new deputies.

Even with the unstable job market, Pierini said it's difficult to find candidates who make the grade.

"Not all agencies do as much as we do. The hiring process includes in-depth background investigation and testing," he said.

Pierini is preparing to oversee a 30,000-square-foot expansion of the Douglas County Jail officials say is long overdue and is set to begin in June.

Officials hope to complete all three phases of the expansion paid for through the county's construction fund.

Pierini said if all phases can't be completed, he will make a priority of the kitchen expansion and additional medical cells.

"The kitchen is 30 years old and it doesn't meet health standards," he said.

With the cuts in mental health services, the jail is housing more inmates with mental health issues, requiring an increase in holding cells.

One of the department's strengths is in technology, Pierini said.

"Ten years ago, our technology was poor," he said. "With the help of the county commissioners and the community, we've been able to greatly expand in that area. We can respond faster and solve crimes more quickly. Patrol officers have on-board computers and radio communications have been improved, he said.

Along with other county departments, Pierini is adjusting the department's budget to meet the decline in revenue due to the economic downturn.

With 99 sworn officers out of a total 120 employees, Pierini knows what a priority law enforcement is to Douglas County residents.

He's leaving some positions vacant to find $650,000 to trim from the department's budget.

"This year is tough, but I think next year will be tougher," he said. "Everything has been cut to bare bones. We have nowhere else to go."

Looking ahead to the next few years, Pierini said he wants to continue to focus on technology and training.

"Our training is good, but you can never do enough," he said.

When Pierini looks over the last 36 years, he said his career turned out better than he expected.

"I really enjoy my job. I look forward to going to work every day," he said. "The sheriff's office gets such support from the community. They appreciate the job we're doing."

He credits that to the department's 120 employees.

"We have a real honest, good bunch of people who work here. They work way over their regular hours because they care," he said.


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