Stating that he has "unfinished business" to complete, Sheriff Bill Brown formally announced Monday that he'll be running for re-election in June, seeking a third term as Santa Barbara County's top law enforcement official.
Surrounded by an impressive number of supporters in law enforcement, courts, probation and county government, Brown announced his intention to keep his office with his wife, Donna, standing by his side in the shadow of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Elected to the position in 2006, Brown described his career in law enforcement as a calling, saying that he's known since high school that he wanted to protect and serve other people.
He said one of the biggest reasons he wants to return to office is to see the completion and opening of the North County Jail, a mammoth project that prior sheriffs have tried and failed to get built.
Brown's incumbency is being challenged by one of his employees, Sandra Brown, a 16-year veteran of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, who announced last year that she would be challenging her boss for the position.
Sandra Brown, who serves as detective sergeant in the Special Investigations Bureau of the Coroner’s Office, has called on Sheriff Brown to put deputies back on the streets and stop using public safety as a political pawn in budget battles with the Board of Supervisors.
Sheriff Brown's contender was not mentioned by name during the announcement, but several leaders pointed out that though "it's easy to criticize," only those who have been sheriff know how hard it is to keep the department running.
"He's doing a hell of a job, and he is the only qualified candidate for this position," District Attorney Joyce Dudley said.
Brown was backed by an impressive lineup of former Santa Barbara County sheriffs, the current sheriffs from Ventura and San Luis Obispo, and police chiefs, who touted Brown's record of law enforcement for the past 36 years.
Leaders from Carpinteria, Solvang and Goleta, cities that contract with the Sheriff's Department for law enforcement, commended Brown's leadership and the quality of the law enforcement they see in their cities.
"He's treated our community better than I could ever have imagined," Carpinteria Mayor Brad Stein said.
Four priorities are on his radar for the next term, Brown said, with the first being deputies on the street and staffing county jails.
Despite the worst financial crisis in years, "we worked together to make it through those tough times so that almost all our required cuts came from attrition," he said.
Brown also said that crime is down in the county, even with the cuts.
In 2012, violent and property crimes in the areas served by SBSO were 41 percent lower than numbers for thirty years prior in 1984, he said.
"That's taken a lot of hard work," he said.
Completing and opening the jail no later than the summer of 2018 was another goal, and Brown admitted the project was a massive undertaking and is the largest public works project in the history of Santa Barbara County.
"It will create hundreds of jobs and infuse millions into our county at a time when both are desperately needed," he said.
Brown also said he would put greater emphasis on rehabilitation and re-entry into the community for those who have served their time.
"I'm a tough sheriff, but I also believe in second chances," he said.
Restoring some of the 64 Sheriff's Department positions lost in the last few years would also be key.
"We need to start gradually adding back some of the positions that were cut because of the budget crisis," Brown said, adding that he'll continue to work with the Board of Supervisors to do that.
Brown closed by asking the community to vote for him so he could "continue to lead your Sheriff's Office into the future."