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Retired Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde, an intrinsically private man who stepped up to become the region’s top cop amid a crisis of leadership and morale in the Sheriff’s Office, and who later reinvented the nearly bankrupt regional Goodwill Industries as its first-in-command, died Tuesday.

Ihde retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 1997 after suffering two heart attacks and stayed on the job at Goodwill through years of treatment for prostate cancer. He was 69.

“He was ahead of his time and a pleasure to work with,” said longtime friend and colleague Sal Rosano, the retired Santa Rosa police chief. He and Ihde were credited in the 1990s with advancing the professionalism of law enforcement in Sonoma County and breaking down jurisdictional and technological barriers that impaired cooperation among the county’s police agencies.

Tall, baritone-voiced and straightforward, Ihde served seven years as sheriff and restored much public respect and internal unity to a department weakened by his predecessor, the late Dick Michaelsen.

Michaelsen was criticized inside his department for controversial hiring decisions and within the wider community for political showboating and making flawed public statements in the aftermath of Sonoma Valley resident Ramon Salcido’s mass killings of his family members.

In announcing his candidacy for sheriff, Ihde, a 41-year-old sheriff’s lieutenant who joined the office two decades earlier as a reserve deputy, told supporters “I am not a smooth politician, as you can tell.”

Contrasting himself with Michaelsen, he added, “If given the opportunity and honor to serve as your sheriff, I will not exaggerate, fabricate or mislead.”

On election day in June of 1990, Ihde trounced the incumbent, garnering more than 71 percent of the votes.

Michaelsen later served as police chief and city manager of Waterford, in Stanislaus County, until his arrest on suspicion of embezzling proceeds of sales of impounded cars. He died of cancer in 2001.

As Sonoma County’s new sheriff, Ihde set out to mend the Sheriff’s Office, restore trust and the chain of command and lead the operation forward.

He was widely praised for rising quickly to the demands of a hugely complex job, leading a department responsible for providing law-enforcement services to all unincorporated areas of the county, operating the county jail, overseeing the coroner’s bureau and providing bailiffs to the courts. Challenges and controversies came at once.

In Ihde’s first year as sheriff, two rookie deputies crashed patrol cars while driving too fast, a courtroom bailiff shot and killed himself at the courthouse, an African-American news reporter accused the department of racial profiling, a young deputy was convicted of assault and a deputy coroner was jailed for stealing from the dead.

In October of that first year, 1991, personal tragedy struck as Ihde and his father, 72-year-old Maurice Ihde, were crabbing off the Oregon coast.

Their small boat capsized and Maurice Ihde died despite his son’s attempts to save him.

Mark Ihde continued to mature as sheriff, and by the end of his first four-year term was widely regarded as a strong, inclusive and reputable law-enforcement administrator.

In 1994, his bid for a second term went unchallenged.

Rosano, who collaborated with Ihde until his retirement as Santa Rosa police chief in 1996, said his friend and colleague “understood the concept of community policing” and proved himself eager to work with the county’s other law-enforcement chiefs “without regard for who gets any credit.”

Rosano said also that as sheriff, Ihde “worked tirelessly, sometimes more then he should.”

Ihde’s successes during his second term were tempered by health issues and a barrage of criticism brought on by the 1996 murder of a Sonoma Valley woman, Maria Teresa Macias, who had sought protection from her abusive husband.

The slain woman’s mother and three children sued Ihde in federal court, alleging that he and the department he led failed to protect Macias after she repeatedly reported assaults and harassment by her estranged husband.

It would be 2002 before the case was settled by Sonoma County’s agreement, while admitting no wrongdoing, to pay $1 million to Macias’ family. Supporters of the Maciases hailed the settlement as the first time a law enforcement agency paid damages to a victim of domestic violence.

In the fall of 1996, Ihde and then-District Attorney Michael Mullins received and vowed to act on proposals from a community advisory panel that considered reforms in the county’s responses to domestic abuse. A year later, following a second heart attack while in office, Ihde retired.

He said at the time, “It is with considerable regret that my health precludes me from continuing in this role.”

He would declare in a 2010 interview with the North Bay Business Journal, which had named him one of the region’s most influential leaders, that to retire as sheriff after 27 years with the department “and give up a career that I truly loved was the most difficult business decision I have made.”

Wired to work, Ihde tested several fields of endeavor after leaving the sheriff’s office. Always active as a volunteer in community organizations, he was chairman of the governing board of the Santa Rosa-based Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire, which in 2006 faced possible bankruptcy.

Ihde was resolute that the struggling enterprise, which collects and sells donated goods and uses proceeds to employ and train people who live with disabilities and other challenges, could be righted.

The board hired him as the regional Goodwill operation’s new president and CEO. At age 57, Ihde took to the task with verve.

“He was an amazing champion for us,” said Brandy Evans, who was Goodwill’s chief operating officer until 2013, when she and Ihde switched jobs amid his battle with prostate cancer. His greatest strength, Evans said, was his “genuine, authentic leadership.”

At Goodwill, Ihde relished most the marketing and the transforming of homely second-hand stores into attractive, well-kept boutiques.

“And he also loved the toys,” Evans said, speaking of the Goodwill trucks and forklifts and such.

With Ihde at the helm of Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire, Evans said, its earnings grew from less than $6 million a year to a high, last year, of nearly $20 million.

There were five Goodwill stores in the region when Ihde became president/CEO. Evans and her staff prepare now to open the 15th.

Ihde, who died at his home in Santa Rosa, is survived by his wife of 30 years, Barbara, a daughter, Kimberly, and a son, Sean.

On Tuesday, Barbara Ihde was able to say only, “He was a wonderful man.”

Longtime friend Bill Carle, the Santa Rosa attorney and school board member, said that in recent days and weeks it pained Mark Ihde that he wasn’t able to join in assisting people displaced by the wildfires.

Carle said Ihde “expressed the wish that he was still able to participate in rebuilding our community and, particularly, empowering people to help themselves.”

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