Stress is killing Curry County Sheriff John Bishop.
The stress — fiscal insecurity in his department, huge turnover among his deputies, the constant fighting on behalf of his employees, an inability to get support to fund public safety — has prompted him to give notice and take a job in Salem.
“My doctor said, ‘You might want to think about getting out of this line of work,” Bishop said. “He said, ‘If you don’t get out of this job, you’re going to die young.’ I had to make a decision: Do I want to be around for my family or put myself out there 1,000 percent like I have been?”
Bishop has accepted a position as executive director with the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association in Salem.
His wife Kris, a parole and probation officer for the county, is applying for the lead probation officer position in Albany.
Bishop, who came from the Brookings Police Department, has been fighting since his first month on the job in 2008 to get adequate funding for his department. It was in the ensuing years that federal compensation for loss of timber and tax revenue began to taper off; nothing is slated in the next legislative session to address timber subsidies.
In the past two years, that fight has led to two failed property tax hike measures on the ballot — another one is slated for Sept. 16 to fund the jail — a decimation of his ranks as deputies train here and leave for places that pay more and an overburdened jail staff in an aging facility.
In his new position — a “behind the scenes, much less stressful” job, he said — Bishop will deal more with the state legislature regarding law enforcement issues statewide. His pay is being negotiated, but he said it will be about one and a half times more than his current salary — $69,000 — plus benefits. He will also be eligible for a pension and have health benefits.
“It was a great deal,” Bishop said. “I was honored the sheriffs across the state wanted me to do it.”
The Sheriffs’ Association is a nonprofit organization that works at the legislative level on behalf of sheriffs across the state. Bishop submitted a letter of interest, the executive board of the organization recommended it, and the 36 sheriffs voted him in.
His last day here will be sometime between late August and late September, he said. His family’s original plans were for Bishop’s wife to stay in Curry County and commute to visit, until state officials pointed out there was a position that fit her experience in Albany. She has been with the sheriff’s office for 19 years.
Bishop admits it will be a challenge to replace him — he modestly declined the idea that it’s because of his exemplary work in the community — but because of the county’s financial situation. His is one of the lowest paid sheriffs in the state, and he struggles with keeping the ranks staffed because of equally low pay offered to deputies. When positions come open — or when they stay open for months on end — people don’t even apply because they are unsure what will happen to the county as it trudges closer to its fiscal abyss.
He informed his employees of his intentions Wednesday, and will discuss his plan with them next week.
County commissioners will appoint a replacement; the seat will come up for election in November.