Sunday, September 23 , 2018, 9:08 pm | Mostly Cloudy 60º

 
 
 
 
DON PATTERSON

Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson Officially Retired, But Not Quite Ready to Move On

After 30 years in Santa Barbara County law enforcement, veteran officer still on the job while search for replacement continues

The time to retire has arrived at last, and Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson says he’s ready to leave the Sheriff’s Department in able hands.

Patterson, 59, officially retired Nov. 8 but agreed to stay on as an hourly employee with no benefits until Sheriff Bill Brown picks a permanent replacement to fill the seasoned veteran’s shoes.

While Patterson said that announcement could come as early as this week, he wasn’t sure if he’d be staying on until the end of the year or even into early 2015. It all depends on when a yet-to-be named undersheriff could start work.

The Sheriff’s Department would not confirm whether the new hire was from within the department or from outside the area, and spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the search, which began Sept. 22, was still ongoing last week.

Patterson said he was never tempted to take the permanent post since retirement plans were in the works for a year or so. He said he aimed to be done before he turns 60 in June.

“I’ve had so many people ask me to stick around,” said Patterson, who has spent 30 years in law enforcement. “If I was five years younger, I’d be staying, but it’s time for me to leave. It’s a very difficult decision for me, but I’m a firm believer that the hardest decision is the right one.”

A San Diego native, Patterson received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Long Beach State University before he was hired as a deputy with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and then transferred to Santa Barbara County two years later, in 1979.

He worked as a patrol deputy and a member of the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team before he left the department for five years to earn a master’s degree, help launch Goleta’s CMC Rescue School and to work as a private consultant.

Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson in a patrol car not long after he started at the Sheriff's Department in 1979. (Patterson family photo)
Santa Barbara County Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson in a patrol car not long after he started at the Sheriff's Department in 1979. (Patterson family photo)

In 1997, Patterson returned as a sheriff’s reserve deputy before quickly working his way up to deputy, sergeant and lieutenant. Patterson was the first chief of police for the newly incorporated City of Goleta in 2002, before he was promoted to commander, chief of law enforcement operations and then acting undersheriff last year when Undersheriff Jim Peterson abruptly retired.

He fondly remembers assisting the Secret Service while on the Special Enforcement Team protecting former President Ronald Reagan at Rancho Del Cielo west of Goleta.

Helping arrest multiple-homicide suspect Kevin Cooper was another highlight. Cooper, an escaped prison inmate from San Bernardino County, was captured on a boat in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1983 after an intense manhunt following four murders at a home in Chino Hills. He was convicted of the crimes and is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Patterson will be missed at the department, where he earned the sheriff’s Meritorious Service Award for his leadership and service as the Law Enforcement Branch director on four major wildfires, including the Zaca Fire in 2007, the Gap and Tea fires in 2008 and the Jesusita Fire in 2009.

“Don Patterson has had a long and distinguished public safety career,” Brown said in a statement. “His reliability, dedication, department knowledge and keen intellect are second to none. Don’s even-tempered personality and his remarkable understanding of organizational management make him a model team player and collaborator, both inside and outside our agency.

“For the past year he assumed the difficult and demanding role of undersheriff, and he has done an absolutely superb job. I will always be grateful for the dedication and loyalty Don has shown to me, to the Sheriff’s Office and to the people of Santa Barbara County.”

Patterson said he was happy to be saving the county about $8,000 a month by working while a search continues for a new undersheriff, who he could help during a transition.

His next challenge: taking a month off from all work to decompress at his Goleta home on request from his wife, whom he met on a call years ago.

Patterson plans to go back to teaching at Chapman University in Orange and elsewhere, focusing on emergency and fire response training.

“I really want to get into the training aspect of it,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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