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Retired Sonoma County sheriff’s captain to run for sheriff in 2021

Retired Sonoma County Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Edmonds announced Saturday he was running for sheriff, saying his 32 years with the department and proven leadership have prepared him to take the reins of the region’s largest law enforcement agency.

It’s the second time Edmonds, 58, has taken a stab at winning the office, though he left the competition early in 2017, when current Sheriff Mark Essick earned the endorsement of deputy sheriffs and ended up out front the following year.

Edmonds, who formally retired from the Sheriff’s Office six years ago but continued continued conducting background investigations as extra help until 2017, said it’s clear the agency under Essick needs a course correction he can provide.

“I think if things were going smoothly in the county and with the Sheriff’s Office, and if morale was high and if the leadership at the top level of the Sheriff’s Office was of high quality, that would mean a lot to me, and I would not be doing this out of pure ambition,” Edmonds said.

“I am really knitted to this community and its safety and its health and its vibrancy. I really am,” he continued. “And I love that organization. I love the people there, and I think there’s a quality staff there, and they need top-level leadership. Top-level leadership is imperative in law enforcement.”

Several others, including a top-ranking official inside the department, are rumored to be considering runs at the job, according to Jerry Threet, the former director of the county’s civilian watchdog that monitors the Sheriff’s Office. Sources inside the department could not be reached to confirm that information Saturday.

Essick, who is eligible for reelection in June, has confronted significant controversy while in office, not least when he announced last year he would not enforce the county health officer’s “f---ing health order.”

He said he was frustrated at the time by being held out of policy discussions and was dismayed that the shelter-in-place order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 was harming constituents economically and emotionally. But his sudden rejection of an approach on which other county leaders were aligned caused significant outrage among them and scathing criticism from many local residents.

Essick also is the subject of a complaint by current Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins, who accused him of bullying in phone conversations during last year’s Walbridge fire, which burned largely in her district.

Essick was not available for comment on Saturday but as recently as March declined to say whether he intended to run for reelection.

His comments were made in connection with reporting on a state Senate bill that would allow people without law enforcement experience to run for county sheriff’s positions in California.

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt said Saturday he expected the bill to face challenges ahead, but that he imagined “the field would be lengthy” in Sonoma County if it passed.

“It will be interesting to see how the field will evolve, if it passes,” he said.

Edmonds filed a Candidate Intention Statement with the county clerk’s office on Friday and has loaned his campaign $25,000 to initiate his effort. His new website, edmondsforsheriff.com, went live on Saturday.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been revised to correct the spelling of Jerry Threet’s last name. It has also been revised to note Sheriff Mark Essick voiced dismay over the harm he said was being done to local businesses by the county’s pandemic shutdown.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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