Sheriff Adam Christianson announced last year that he will not seek re-election, an action which has since attracted the candidacies of three. The sheriff, however, has thrown his support behind Jeffrey Dirkse, a lieutenant with the Sheriff's Department.
Stanislaus County voters will choose the next sheriff on June 5. The filing period for candidacies ends on March 14.
Others running are Sheriff's Deputy Tom Letras, a Ceres native, and Sgt. Juan Alanis, a 23-year veteran of the department.
Dirkse joined the Sheriff's Department in 2007 as a patrol deputy, and was promoted to sergeant, detective and now lieutenant. He became Patterson's chief in May 2015 as part of the county's contract with that city to provide police services.
Endorsing Dirkse are 17 sheriffs in the state and the Ceres and Modesto Police Officers Associations, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Supervisors Association, Stanislaus County Sworn Management Association and Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association.
"I believe Chief Dirkse has the grounded principles and calm decision-making abilities to become the 22nd sheriff of Stanislaus County," Christianson said.
Dirkse, 45, a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger and National Guard commander who served for nearly a year in Operation Iraqi Freedom, grew up in the Turlock area and graduated from Turlock High School. He, his wife and their three children live on a 40-acre almond ranch east of Denair once owned by his parents.
Dirkse is a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger and National Guard commander who served for nearly a year in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He joined the Sheriff's Department in 2007 as a patrol deputy and became Patterson's chief in May 2015 as part of the county's contract with that city to provide police services.
"I have a broad background in leadership over the last 25 years," Dirkse said. "I led groups of up to 120 soldiers in multinational settings. I've also run my own ag business and understand the needs and desires of private citizens and business owners. I have been a police chief more than two years in a vibrant and growing community.
Dirkse attended Turlock High School. He also was active in the youth group at Evangelical Free Church, which is now known as Crossroads Church.
In 1990, Dirkse received a nomination to West Point from Congressman Gary Condit. He graduated from the academy in 1994 as a 2nd lieutenant and was accepted in Ranger school. He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Fort Lewis, Washington, commanding 40-man rifle platoons as well as a 15-man anti-armor platoon as part of the 101st Airborne Division and 2nd Ranger Battalion. He left active duty in 1999 at the rank of captain.
After the service, Dirkse began running the family ag business, which includes almonds and a host of other crops on 550 acres. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, prompted Dirkse to re-enlist in the armed forces and he joined the California National Guard. He was put in command of an infantry company, D/1-184 Infantry, headquartered in Oakdale. In 2005, the company was deployed to Iraq and given responsibility for a sector near Baghdad.
"We didn't have a lot of battles in the traditional sense, but we dealt with a lot of insurgents and IEDs (bombs)," he said. "We had a zone for my company and we patrolled it every day."
Over the period of the deployment, five soldiers from the company were killed and 80 were wounded. Dirkse earned a Bronze Star for his leadership, along with a Combat Infantryman's Badge, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, an Army Commendation Medal and an Army Achievement Medal.
At the sheriff's department, Dirkse has been a STING detective, a rural crimes detective, a patrol sergeant and an internal affairs sergeant. He also supervised the Explorers for several years and developed an intern program to bring high school graduates into the department at age 18.
"One of my main goals as chief is to develop my sergeants to replace me," he said. "It takes active work by leaders to create, train and mentor the next generation."
Dirkse took a leave from the department in 2010-12 when he was mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Letras, a 1990 graduate of Ceres High School, took on his boss, Sheriff Adam Christianson, in the 2014 election. That campaign blasted Christianson as a bully who intimidates his employees.
Letras began his career in 1997 after being hired by Sheriff Les Weidman to work as a custody deputy in the Sheriff's detention facilities. Letras has served as the Public Information Officer (PIO), a patrol deputy, gang detective, and many other assignments.
Letras worked as a campus supervisor at CHS, and Mae Hensley and Blaker Kinser junior highs. He joined the Sheriff's Department's jail custody division in 1997. He served a while as a public information officer in 2001. He became a patrol deputy in 2005 after attending the academy and for 18 months served as a gang detective until the department's gang unit was dissolved because of budget issues. Letras' job then took him to transporting inmates. When Deputy Bob Paris was murdered during a Modesto eviction attempt gone awry in April 2012, Letras volunteered to serve evictions.
Letras said he would continue the policy enacted by Christianson of giving out permits for concealed weapons permits for those who demonstrate knowledge of weapon safety and pass a background check. He said no one should "rely on government for personal safety."
Alanis has spent 23 years with the Sheriff's Department and served as Patrol Watch Commander, acting Police Chief in Waterford and Hughson, a patrol sergeant, Hughson Contract City Supervisor and the Supervisor of the Special Vehicle Operations Unit. He worked in the patrol division, as a courthouse bailiff, member of SWAT and SWAT support, a Crimes Against Children detective assigned to the Family Justice Center, a School Resource Officer and was the Deputy Sheriff's Association Vice President.
"It's time for a new generation and fresh ideas to make Stanislaus County a greater place to work, live, visit and play," Alanis said on his website. He pledges to be more involved in communities, bring back school resource officers, community policing, and more juvenile delinquency prevention programs.
"I will embed community policing and problem solving throughout the agency. As your sheriff, I will start with building collaborative community partnerships by hosting face to face community meetings."
Alanis said he believes all law-abiding citizens should have the right to carry a concealed firearm "without burdensome restrictions and will defend to the fullest the second amendment of the Constitution." He pledges to lobby lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento "to ensure every citizens' Second Amendment rights are protected as well as recognizing concealed carry reciprocity in all 50 states."
He also advocates "enhancing and streamlining the concealed weapon permit process to provide equal opportunities for all law-abiding citizens and I will diligently work towards providing free educational opportunities to our citizens who choose to carry a concealed firearm. My goal is to provide the best training, background check, information possible to ensure a safe community through responsible firearm ownership."
I will LISTEN to the public on how we can improve our processes when it comes to CCW's.
Christianson will end a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement, with the last 12 in the elected position of sheriff. He said he plans to spend more time with family. Christianson started his career in law enforcement with the Ceres Police Department, before moving on to the Modesto Police Department, and eventually the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department in 1996.
Christianson's first election to sheriff was in 2006. During his tenure as the head of the organization, the sheriff's department has opened a new detention center using AB 900 Phase II funds. The center provides 480 maximum security beds as well as housing for 57 medical and mental health offenders and 15 hospital beds. Christianson also oversaw the opening of a day reporting center, a new coroner's facility, the Re-Entry and Enhanced Alternatives to Custody Training Center, and the re-opening of the Sheriff's Regional Training Center.