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Ron Pierini appointed to Sheriff

Sheila Gardner

When he was 16 years old, Ron Pierini began to chart the course that would lead him to Douglas County’s top law enforcement position.

That goal was realized Thursday when county commissioners appointed Pierini, 45, sheriff to complete the term of Jerry Maple who will retire Sept. 26.

“I love my job, I love this department and I love this community,” Pierini said in an interview Thursday. “My whole career has been directed toward this goal. I made up my mind at age 16 that this was what I wanted to do. It was always in the back of my mind.”

Pierini said he doesn’t plan any major changes in the 108-person department where he has worked since 1977. He began his law enforcement career as a cadet with the Carson City sheriff’s department.

“Jerry did an excellent job at this department,” Pierini said. “I literally owe him everything. I wish him nothing but the best and I’m extremely excited to replace him in this position. Obviously, it’s a challenge. I will do my very best.”

Pierini said he believes the community’s top concern is keeping gangs out.

“We will continue to keep this a safe community,” he said.

When he joined the department, there were 40 employees and the county had a population of 15,000. Now, the county has close to 40,000 residents and 108 employees in the sheriff’s department.

“What we’ve done, and what any law enforcement agency with similar problems does, is more with less,” Pierini said. “Our employees are the most dedicated people. They give 110 percent. I really think the administration sets the tone, policy and procedures, but we attribute most of our success to the employees on the street. I believe in giving them the tools to do the job. That includes additional training, streamlined procedure and improved technology.”

Pierini said traffic-related problems are his next priority.

“With four people in the traffic division, I plan to utilize resources a little differently,” he said.

He said the department receives lots of complaints of speeders in neighborhoods of all sizes. He plans to use a marked sheriff’s patrol car without light bars.

“When people see the bars they slow down, then they speed up again,” he said.

As he has during a 21-year career with the department, Pierini takes his lead from the community.

“This sheriff’s department has always tried to have a partnership with the community,” he said. “If a community has faith in its sheriff’s department, people are more apt to report criminal activity and cooperate. If you don’t have faith in your sheriff’s department, then we’ll lose the battle.”

Other plans Pierini has include a law enforcement academy for senior citizens to strengthen them against crime; an identification program for people with Alzheimer’s disease; a toll-free cell phone number to patch into the Douglas County 911; and development of a shooting range.

The newly-appointed sheriff has concerns about drug use throughout the county.

“It would be very nice to say we intend to make this a drug-free community, but that’s unrealistic,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in education. We’ve been doing enforcement since the ’60s when people said drugs were just a fad. We’ve spent millions and millions and millions on enforcement and it hasn’t made that big of an impact. The DARE and GREAT (education) programs are necessary. The more time we spend in the classroom, the less money we have to spend later. There has been criticism of those programs, but we continue to use them. Nobody has come up with anything better.”

Pierini also wants to put supervised jail inmates to work doing county jobs such as maintenance, lawn mowing and snow shoveling that might be cut by the shift in room tax revenues.

“We may be able to substitute some labor costs,” he said. “The inmates wouldn’t take anybody’s job, only ones that might be cut.”

He’s also in favor of using unoccupied space at the Stateline jail for juvenile offenders.

“We are a growing community and the six beds we’re entitled to at Carson City are just not enough with the numbers we’re dealing with,” Pierini said. “I believe the community needs to have space available for the people who commit crimes here.”

Former undersheriff Bernie Curtis, now a county commissioner, said he believes Pierini will soon put his own touch on the department.

“I wish Ron absolutely the best luck and the best time. His adventure is just beginning,” Curtis said. “I think there are going to be some times when he needs to be tough and some times that will be extremely tense and treacherous, both operationally and politically. He will be challenged and he will do a good job.”

As for advice for the new sheriff, Curtis said, “Rely on your friends, rely on your political advisers. Everybody in the public is to be treated equally and always speak with your heart.

“I love the men and women of that sheriff’s department,” said Curtis, who retired in 1994 after 22 years. “They’re very, very important to this community.”

Pierini said he would announce his plans Sept. 12 for the two positions traditionally held by undersheriff and captain.

Pierini said he believes his extensive community participation will help him as sheriff.

“I like helping,” he said. “But there’s another side to it. It gives me contact with people in the community – the pulse of the community. Contact helps put a face to a name. People feel more comfortable telling me things because they know me. Who sets the policy better than the community? That’s one reason I got so involved. It helps me do my job.”

For his community involvement, Pierini was named citizen of the year by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority on Wednesday, the day before he was appointed sheriff by county commissioners.

“It’s been a pretty good week,” Pierini said.