Sheriff candidates answer questions

May 20, 2014 

EDITOR'S NOTE: With the June 3 general election less than two weeks away, the Sierra Star has provided the opportunity for the six candidates running for Madera County Sheriff to respond to five questions, to help voters in their voting decision. This week, in alphabetical order, candidates Greg Noll (Fresno Police Sergeant), Michael Salvador (Madera County Undersheriff), and Jay Varney (Chowchilla Chief of Police) will be featured. In last week's Sierra Star (May 15 edition), candidates Dennis Fairbanks (retired CHP supervisor), Frank Gauthier (former Madera County deputy and corporate security manager), and Michael Kime (retired Madera Chief of Police) were featured.

What professional and personal qualities do you have that set you apart from the other sheriff candidates?

Greg Noll

I bring 29 years of police experience to the position of Sheriff working at the Santa Cruz Police Department and 21 years at the Fresno Police Department.

Working in the 5th largest city in the state has provided me with many opportunities to learn how to fight crime and utilize proven modern crime fighting techniques to impact crime. I lead men and women on a daily basis in uniform as we deal with the impacts of gangs and drugs in our community.

As your next sheriff I have resources to assist in dealing with gangs that are a quick phone call away. Madera County recently implemented a gang task force, something I have worked with over the last 10 years in the city where I work.

Many of the serious crimes that occur in Madera County are suspects from Fresno County and no other candidate has the opportunity to make a phone call and assist in investigations like I do. I am a proven collaborator utilizing faith based and other non-profits to help reduce crime. The area I was responsible for in Southwest Fresno over the last three years had a 23% reduction in crime.

Michael Salvador

I am currently a county employee and have served for the past 17 years. This in-depth knowledge of county procedures and processes allow me to hit the ground running when elected. I am an innovator and collaborator. I look to the future and am not afraid to be on the bleeding edge of procedure or technology.

I have found that to progress you must be willing to take risks. I do not accept the adage "we have always done it this way." I am always searching for the next best way of doing things.

I am open, approachable, and light-hearted. While in elected service, I have never turned a constituent away. I love to talk about my chosen profession and consider it a calling. It is an honor to serve the public and contribute to the greater good. Truman said it best with "the buck stops here." That is the way I carry out my duties on a daily basis.

Jay Varney

I am a team-building leader who has proven successful in every work environment, every economy, and at every level of law enforcement, I have worked at over the past 30 years. I will continue to do so as your sheriff.

My experience, education, and current law enforcement service in Madera County makes me the best qualified to serve as your sheriff. I have gained over 18 years of front line leadership experience in both rural and urban settings, including more than 10 years as chief of police in Chowchilla.

For two years, I served as both acting city administrator and police chief during one of the more difficult financial times in recent memory. As acting city administrator, our team made the difficult decisions to ensure the continued financial viability of the city — a responsibility that none of the other candidates has held. I am proud to say that our actions during those years have helped the city begin to grow again.

I am a 2013 graduate of the FBI National Academy and recently completed my Master's Degree in Criminology at Fresno State. I hold an Executive Certificate — the highest level of certification — from California POST.

With the increase in random shootings across the country, many on school grounds, what would you do (with the limited budget) to assure the safety of our schools and students of Madera County?

Greg Noll

Unfortunately our schools across this country are under attack. I will immediately adopt a program where each deputy will be responsible to Adopt a School and go by each school within their area of responsibility and introduce themselves to open up the lines of communications. I have spoken with a local superintendent about my plan and it was well received.

I have-long term goals to seek out additional grants in conjunction with the schools to have permanently assigned School Resource Deputies at the high schools that would also be responsible to handle incidents at the junior high level.

I wrote and secured a grant at Fresno Unified called "LifeSkills" which was taught by retired law enforcement that focused on making good choices at the middle school level. This was a cost effective, successful program that brought a uniformed presence to each school.

I am going to work with each school district and seek out collaboration grants to provide deputy presence. My intent is to increase visibility by supplementing the patrol of deputies by the Adopt a School program. This is a proven program that should already be in place and it's not.

Michael Salvador

I have already started to take action. Right after the Sandy Hook shooting, I engaged several districts in the County providing training to their personnel on emergency procedures. That training gave practical tips that empower teachers and other staff members to be an asset in assuring our schools stay safe.

I would expand by engaging all the county's school districts to ensure that the sheriff's office has current floor plans, utility plans, and contact information for all their locations. I would set up a review schedule to ensure the information is timely.

Jay Varney

I have a number of ideas that could be applied to safety at our schools, without creating the full cost of hiring new sworn personnel for the sheriff's office.

Deputy resources at our schools can be financially provided for in any of the following ways, without having the full impact of hiring a new sworn deputy for each location:

Partnerships can be formed between the school districts and the sheriff's office to share the funding of a sworn deputy for the school location, such as a high school. We currently do this in Chowchilla.

Similar partnerships can be formed on a district-wide basis to provide a sworn deputy, who covers multiple school sites. We currently do this in Chowchilla, as well.

Retired law enforcement personnel can be hired to work at a school site for significantly less money than a full-time deputy. These individuals would be currently certified through POST. This model is used in other areas in California.

Level 1 reserve officers could be used to perform some duties at school sites on a part-time basis.

Do you have any 'new' programs (such as COPS and the reverse 911) that you would like to see initiated if elected, and if so how would you pay for the program(s)?

Greg Noll

I have several programs that I plan on implementing once elected. The first plan will be to create a non-profit sheriff's foundation that will allow for fundraising to assist financially in programs already in existence. This is a no cost program. I will implement a senior citizen newsletter that will be distributed quarterly to the senior facilities that will provide information about current crime trends and scams. This will be run from my PIO office at no cost.

I have a plan to integrate our current Computer Aided Dispatch center in a program that will allow citizens to log on and see current crimes/trends in their neighborhoods. I have already been in contact with one vendor and this is a free service to law enforcement and is being utilized in the cities of Madera and Fresno.

I will be discussing a mentorship program for future deputies who participate in the Explorer program to encourage young teens to go to college and seek employment within the Madera Sheriff's Department. I also will collaborate with local non-profits and the faith based community to provide outreach and a message of hope to subjects who are involved in criminal activity.

Michael Salvador

Yes, I would like to change the department's website from the generic information site that it is to a full e-commerce site. This site would allow citizens to order services from the department (I.E. CCW or report copies), pay for them and schedule the receipt of the finished products. This is a relatively inexpensive change and can be paid for using current department resources.

Jay Varney

I would like to implement a public safety cadet program. This program would be designed to increase the number of youth from Madera County, who pursue a career in public safety, particularly public safety within Madera County.

The program would be designed to help the participants through a program that includes courses for which they would receive college credit through the State Center Community College District. Upon completion of a particular level of the program, the students would be able to participate in part-time employment with the sheriff's office to assist with duties where a full-time sworn or non-sworn employee is not required.

Funding for this program would come from the general fund, grant, or sheriff's foundation resources. Charitable sheriff's foundations have been in existence for decades. There should be one here in Madera County and we will form one. We have used a similar concept for 10 years in Chowchilla, where a local service club partners with the city to raise funds each year to help support the K9 unit. We raised over $18,000 last year in our area. I am sure that the concept would be even more successful on a countywide basis.

It's been about 40 years since the sheriff's department and the county jail were under the direction of the sheriff. What are the pros and cons of having them separated as they are now and would you be for or against consolidation of the two departments?

Greg Noll

As the sheriff in Madera County, you have the primary responsibility to provide law enforcement response, investigation and services related to public safety. You have the additional responsibility of death investigations under the Office of Coroner.

Having the county jail under the direction of corrections allows the sheriff's department to remain focused on providing a professional service that focuses on public safety and solving crimes. Most sheriffs will tell you the jail takes a tremendous amount of time and focus from the position due to staffing issues and the influx of prisoners to the facility. These additional responsibilities could pull the sheriff from the primary focus of public safety. The job description for a correctional officer versus a deputy sheriff is very different.

Recently the state has opened up additional funding to local jails which could benefit the county as a whole and the sheriff's office. The only con that has come up is additional funding that is being allocated to local jail facilities through AB 109 funds.

Michael Salvador

There are several advantages to the current sheriff-jail configuration. The main one is the fact that the sheriff does not have to choose between keeping the jail floors open or placing deputies on the street. Jails and their conditions is currently the subject of several federal lawsuits. I would take a wait and see approach. First I would like to see what new regulations the courts mandate. Only then can you approach the subject of whether consolidation of the jail and sheriff's office is an efficient proposition for the County.

Jay Varney

I would be for consolidation if it proved to have significant cost savings and professional development improvements included in that process. If not, then there is no operational advantage to have the two consolidate.

The current Madera County Department of Corrections is not a top-heavy organization and has taken advantage of a number of state funding opportunities to expand jail services that other counties have missed out on. Simply because we are one of only two counties who have separate sheriff's/corrections departments, we should not assume that we are doing it "wrong" in Madera County.

The Sheriff's Department currently has a staff or about 100 — What is your 'administrative' background that qualifies you for this part of the job (hiring, firing, budgeting)?

Greg Noll

The experience I bring to this position is unique and different from any of the other candidates. I have written, managed and reported on many different grants within my agency. These grants had line item budgets similar to the County of Madera and have a proven map of success.

I have also worked as the procurement officer for the Fresno Police Department managing in excess of a million dollar budget while ordering all supplies for the department and negotiating contracts for supplies. I have sat on several Request for Proposal panels that have made recommendations on contracts.

When you work for a police agency in California, you are held to an investigative standard that complies with the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBOR). This is a standard practice in law enforcement and I have completed many internal investigations that have resulted in discipline, to include firing. I have also worked as a Union Representative early in my career assisting law enforcement personnel through the Internal Affairs (IA) process providing guidance and support to officers who were accused of wrongdoing.

Managing personnel takes a common sense approach that is based on integrity and doing what is right. Website: nollforsheriff.com

Michael Salvador

I am currently the department's second in command and chief operating officer. I am responsible for the creation and management of the department's $10.5 million budget. I am also responsible for both the hiring recommendations and the management of the civil service process. I serve as the disciplinarian, recommending and enacting discipline with in the county's Civil Service system.

I serve as the department's coordinator for the county's workers compensation system, and am the department's project manager who will coordinate the construction of a new headquarters near the Madera Airport.

I also serve as a trustee on the Madera Unified School District's Board. I assisted in making policy and setting the strategic goals that balanced a $150 million budget, set the location for a new elementary school, and positioned the district to effectively implement both the Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core Standards. Website: salvador4sheriff.com

Jay Varney

I have over 14 years of budgeting experience, including two years being responsible for the budgets of the City of Chowchilla while I served as acting city administrator. The general fund budgets were in the $4.5 to 5.5 million dollar range, and the overall budget with enterprise funds was approximately $25 million.

I have been involved in the hiring and disciplinary process at seven different levels in three different agencies. Serving as police chief and as acting city administrator, I have been involved at the highest level in the hiring and disciplinary process for more than 10 years. Website: jayvarney4sheriff.com

NOTE: If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election between the two top vote-getters will be held in the November general election. Be sure to follow election results at sierrastar.com, Tuesday, June 3.

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