Gerry Tiffany says, "It's time to get to the top."
Tiffany, detective sergeant with the Hood River County Sheriff's Department, is running for the job of sheriff, now held by Joe Wampler, who announced last year he will not run for reelection. The Oregon Primary election will be May 15.
"This is one of the steps in my career I'd like to achieve," said Tiffany, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff's department. He is running against Hood River Police Chief Neal Holste and Sheriff's Det. Matt English.
Tiffany's current duties involve criminal investigations, supervising all deputies and reviewing and approving all reports and investigations. Tiffany said he has the edge in experience over English.
Before joining the department he worked for the John Deere dealership in Gresham, commuting from his home in Cascade Locks. Tiffany and his wife, Laura, who were married in 1985, later moved to Parkdale, and his two daughters went through Hood River County Schools.
Gerry and Laura have three granddaughters, by their daughter, Becci Tiffany Estes, who lives in Hermiston. Their other daughter, Cori, died in a traffic accident in 1998.
Tiffany was injured on the job and advised by his doctor to find a new line of work, one not involving lifting heavy objects. He started with the sheriff's office in 1990 as a corrections officer.
"I worked in the jail at night and went to school during the day," earning his degree in criminal justice from Portland Community College.
"Once I got started in it I knew it was what I wanted to do. The more I worked in law enforcement the more I liked it and understood how it works, so I kept going. I took all the training I could get," Tiffany said.
In 1992 he was made patrol deputy and in 1996 promoted to detective. In 1999 he was named patrol sergeant and he was appointed detective sergeant in 2000.
"Since 2000 I've worked in the everyday operations of the department and I have gotten to know them," he said.
In 2008, budget cuts took away a dedicated position on the MINT drug enforcement team, as well as the department's captain position, last held by Jim Thomson.
"We all had to assume some of those duties," and for Tiffany it meant reviewing reports, supervising investigations, overseeing training and in scheduling. He also administers the report writing system used in the department, and said he is the primary respondent to public questions and complaints about investigations.
"I'm pretty familiar with everything that's happening," he said.
Tiffany has his sergeant supervisor certificate and finished the Oregon Police Academy middle management course in 2006 and went through Command College with the Oregon State Sheriff's Association in 2008.
Tiffany said, "I had no political aspirations" before Wampler told him he would not run for re-election. "It's something I've always wanted to do, to be 'the boss,' I guess, and I talked to others who encouraged me to try.
"I've moved up the chain of command, and gotten more and more interested in what goes on in the department and how to do things. I've been learning and I want to keep going."
"I like being involved in major crime (investigating) and dealing with other law enforcement agencies," he said.
That includes the MINT team, which Tiffany wants to see the department fully rejoin. Right now, due to budget cuts, the department participates in regional drug enforcement on a case-by-case basis, but Tiffany said "I want to work it around to getting back to full staff," adding, "It means we're probably going to have to give up something."
"Perhaps that is where people feel the priority is. Or perhaps it's in traffic, or investigations or something else. I want to try to find out," Tiffany said.
"I want to take a look at our budget and see if there's something we could life without, and work with the county administrator and the board of commissioners to see if there is a way we can fund (the positions)."
As his campaign progresses he plans to meet with the public and find out what they want to see in the department, and gauge the community's sense of priority in reestablishing the full-time drug enforcement position.
"I want some transparency in the sheriff's department," he said. "There are some things you can't talk about, such as ongoing investigations, but I want to talk with people and see where they stand."
Tiffany said that in addition to his experience, his main strength as a potential sheriff is that "I listen to people pretty well. I am not a 'my way or the highway' kind of guy." He said of running the sheriff's department, "It's a team effort. The input of everyone is really important.
"I am also not against changing something in order to get where we want to go." He said he would avoid the fallback of "that's the way we've always done things."
Tiffany graduated in 1970 in a class of five from North Powder High School in eastern Oregon. A 1970-74 Navy veteran, he served on aircraft carriers in the Vietnam conflict, and later in the Persian Gulf. He was aboard one of the first vessels to patrol the Gulf during the OPEC oil embargo of 1973.
He also got a hint of his future career, while serving on Shore Patrol in the Navy. Tiffany also worked for John Deere in Libya in 1980.
Tiffany said he and Matt English work well together and said he has had minimal conversation with English about the fact they both are running, which English also said is the case.
"It's going good," Tiffany said of their cooperation on the department. "We work side-by-side and don't allow it to interfere."
"We both decided on our own to run, and we keep it (the campaign) separate."
English said, "Within the office it has not caused any problems. We work well together, and we have a mission at work."
English added that the only time they have discussed the campaign is when Tiffany informed him in September he planned to run.