Inyo Sheriff candidates give voters their views

By Deb Murphy

Inyo County voters have a choice between the continuation of the current level of service with some reorganization to provide more coverage in South County or a new vision because the “good old boy” system isn’t working.

Joshua Nicholson

That was the picture presented by Undersheriff Jeff Hollowell and Deputy Josh Nicholson, respectively, as they faced off at the Independence Civic Club’s voter education forum Monday evening.

With the retirement of Sheriff Bill Lutze, Hollowell’s candidacy was a given; Nicholson was a surprise.

Here are the highlights of the forum:

Hollowell is a Bishop native with 30 years working his way up through Inyo’s Sheriff’s Department. As Undersheriff for the last four years, he has run the day-to-day operations.

Nicholson graduated from Bishop High in 2000, joined the Army with two deployments in the Middle East, earned his Bachelors in criminal justice, his Masters in public administration, signed up with the California National Guard and deployed to Kosovo.

Jeff Hollowell

Hollowell sees untreated mental health as one of the primary challenge for law enforcement. He’s currently working with the County’s Behavioral Health Department to establish a relationship with a facility in Ridgecrest to help deal with those issues. Other challenges include prescription opioids and changes in legislation that put more pressure on department.

Nicholson points to the loss of personnel in the last two years due to a lack of leadership. He feels the department hasn’t adapted to new laws and propositions.

On budgetary issues, Hollowell has experience developing budgets for the department for the last seven years. Nicholson hasn’t overseen budget but as a Bishop Unified School District board member understands the discipline necessary in the process.

Neither agreed with California’s sanctuary state law.

Both agreed 12-hour shifts, rather than the current 10-hours, would provide better coverage. Both agreed the reduction of drug possession to a misdemeanor was an issue. Hollowell said the department needed to stay on top of drug offenses; Nicholson would assign an investigator to work on the problem. “You have to be creative,” he said, “and help youth make the right choices.”

Nicholson felt officer training needed to be revamped. Hollowell cited the current six months of academy training and four months of field training.

Nicholson would appoint a school resource officer to serve the whole County and begin building relationships, noting something was better than nothing. Hollowell has discussed potential funding sources for the position with Barry Simpson, running uncontested for the position of County Superintendent of Schools.

In his closing statement, Hollowell explained the sheriff’s job wasn’t one you could learn on the job. Nicholson said the choice for voters was easy—either a positive change and vision or the good old boy status quo.

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8 Responses to Inyo Sheriff candidates give voters their views

  1. Tom May 4, 2018 at 7:35 am #

    Hopefully you won’t mind if a non-resident offers a disinterested viewpoint for your consideration. I am a regular visitor to Bishop every summer, and have been for a lifetime of being an eastern Sierra fisherman. My interest is only in offering comments for your consideration. Both gentlemen seem sincere and dedicated.

    I have had exposure through personal experience both with the army during wartime and with law enforcement in my career, and I have practiced law in California for over thirty-five years. I would say that my military experience was helpful in learning chain-of-command, military courtesy, military procedures and military skills. However, I think there is a limit to the practical applicability of my army training to a command position in civilian law enforcement, although having such experience certainly doesn’t hurt. It isn’t the same as having had many years of law enforcement officer experience, which provides the judgement which comes from having `been there and done that.’ It isn’t just the bona fides of good intentions which becomes crucial, it is the judgement, which is invaluable. Also, a senior command position, in my opinion, deserves a person of age maturity, no matter how genuine the good intentions are of all the candidates. A gentleman who finished high school in about year 2000 might be around thirty-six years old presently, give or take, which for a career LEO in most large public agencies, might equate to possibly a patrol sergeant II or a detective grade II–but not to a chief or deputy commander. I know that in my own case, although I thought I was “ready” in my mid-thirties as a major law firm partner and department chair, I found some twenty years later that I was making better decisions then than I was at that earlier time in my life.

    With respect to a comment I have seen in a published letter about response time, I would like to suggest to you that response time is a function of deployment of patrol officers over the service district. You have a very large geographical area to serve, and actually not a very large department. Rolling on a call to a rural location can be problematic in such a situation. I hope your agency will consider the expanded use of POST certified reserve officers, and the use of certified, trained civilian volunteers. Those are resources which can free-up sworn officer time for patrol duty.

    Officer retention is difficult everywhere, and especially for smaller agencies. Once a new academy graduate has some actual service years under his or her belt, there are lateral move opportunities to agencies which can offer him or her significantly higher compensation. So in Inyo County, I would focus upon cadet programs and local recruitment where I could recruit candidates with local ties and family in the community, before other applicants, even when the outside area applicants have stronger resumes. It isn’t just bringing someone aboard, it is bringing someone on the force who will stay.

    Thank you for reading my remarks. It looks like you have two dedicated individuals seeking this office, either of whom should be a good public servant, and I offer my best wishes to who ever of them is elected.

    Los Angeles

  2. Maddawg May 4, 2018 at 3:17 am #

    I feel that a change is well worth the gamble. Hollowell is old school and not very productive as he has shown in the past 4 years as under sheriff
    I think its time for Change and Nicholson seems to have all the credentials.

  3. local observer May 3, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

    Hollowell and Nicholson agree that a 12 hour shift is a positive and possibly necessary move. However, Hollowell has had 7 years to make this change and has never bothered. Only now that he feels political pressure is he promising change. Sounds like if Hollowell wins the election he will just revert back to the status quo. I’m up for a change.

    • InyoMatters May 8, 2018 at 11:59 am #

      Hollowell addressed this issue during the Independence forum and did say he supported the 12-hour shift. It’s unlikely that he would change his mind, although several studies have shown that officers working 12-hour shifts are not as alert and are not getting the amount of sleep or quality as with the 8 and 10-hour shifts. The decision should not be based on what makes the officers happy, but what is in the best interest of the public with respect to public safety and costs with respect to overtime and vacation.

  4. OUTLAW May 3, 2018 at 10:15 am #

    You ask me its time for change. The current format and resources made available to this rural area are not being used to their full potential. The lack of coverage made available to the entire count is a joke. Certainly its happening now under the current Sheriff, why hasn’t the undersheriff tried working on this already??. A new, young perspective is always something that I have admired, not that its always the right one but it might be this time around. So in the end the good ol’ boy system of the wild west has got to go, and go now

    • InyoMatters May 8, 2018 at 11:42 am #

      Outlaw, just who exactly are “the good ol’ boys?” Could you enlighten the rest of us that live here? It seems that “old saw” is always brought out as an argument when the person making the statement has no facts or names to back it up. How about some “names” so the rest of us can keep a look-out for them, lest they corrupt our civil rights and decision-making as members of the voting public. There are, of course, groups of people who share common interests and goals, and consistently weigh in on matters of concern to them. But isn’t that their right to do so as much as it is yours? While I share your enthusiasm for new, young perspectives, in this instance, voting for the county sheriff, I’ll opt for proven maturity, professionalism and long-time experience in law enforcement to protect the safety of my family and friends. In that, I don’t share your enthusiasm for the young, untested candidate in this race. In a few years after proving himself, maybe, but not now.

  5. Jason May 2, 2018 at 8:23 pm #

    Interesting. Hollowell has the local experience, however Nicholson has world experience. Tough choice, but it may be time for a change. I know that on a few occasions that I’ve had to call the Sheriff either the Highway Patrol or Bishop PD (outside City limits) has responded. There seems to be an issue with Sheriff coverage and/or assignments in the County.

  6. Alex Jones May 2, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

    Either way I think both will be good candidates seems like both want to make change so whoever gets elected I hope they follow through with the plan. Good luck to Hollowell and Nicholson!


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