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Jefferson County Sheriff Marc Heckathorn resigns after election defeat by challenger Jason Pollock

Jefferson County Sheriff Marc Heckathorn
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Jefferson County Sheriff Marc Heckathorn

(Update: Full separation agreement; Pollock declines comment until after taking office)

Says he won't stay where he 'is not wanted'

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Jefferson County Sheriff Marc Heckathorn confirmed Thursday that he is leaving the sheriff's office this month under a separation agreement with the county, saying he won't stay where he is "not wanted,' in the wake of his election defeat by challenger Jason Pollock.

"From my standpoint, I was not wanted by the incoming administration, and it was in both the county and my best interests to part ways now to prevent unnecessary future litigation from occurring (basically a risk management decision)," Heckathorn told NewsChannel 21.

Jefferson County commissioners agreed Wednesday to pay Heckathorn about $83,000 in severance, what he would have earned by working to the end of the year, to leave effective June 20 (see document at bottom of story).

Pollock, who, garnered 52% of the vote in the May 17 primary, will be the only name on the November ballot, but the commission plans to appoint Pollock to the post as of June 20, the Madras Pioneer reported.

Heckathorn also told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday: "In the agreement, I agreed to not create any lawsuit naming Jefferson County in the future, in exchange for the wages and benefits check I am being provided that I would have been entitled to should I have stayed through my term of office ending Jan 1, 2023.

"I was also entitled to have my previous job back at the conclusion of my term of office. I have been told through multiple sources my employment was not likely to occur with the incoming sheriff, and I did not want to create a lawsuit and have to continue fighting in the public. We need to quickly move past this election and get our focus back where it needs to be, on public safety.

"I will say in the long term, leaving this way hurts my retirement with PERS substantially, but leaving early is what’s best for the community, the county, and myself so that’s why I’m leaving now. It’s not because I don’t love working for the office. I do and planned to work another decade prior to this happening and like I said….elections have consequences," he concluded.

Pollock told NewsChannel 21 he cannot comment until after taking office on the 20th.

Here's the email Heckathorn sent to staff Wednesday afternoon:
Subject: Administration Change

"All Staff,

"I just signed a negotiated separation agreement between myself and Jefferson County. My last day as Sheriff is June 20th but I’ll take some vacation days off leading up to that day. The commission will appoint an interim Sheriff at their next meeting on the 8th and that person will take over on the 20th. I assume the county will appoint Jason and they have already been in talks with him about this opportunity. This will allow him to start diving into the work that needs done immediately without waiting for the November election to conclude and the new Sheriff term to start in January 2023.  

"As I said before, working with you all has been the highlight of my career. That’s not just talk as I sincerely care about each of you. For most of you I have sat on your hiring board, conducted your background investigation, or sat in on your Sheriff interview. I’ve been through professional and personal highs and lows with many of you. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to be your “boss” and I consider many of you to be my friends. For those who want to reach out to me in the future please do so (I’ll have the time). I will do my best to help and support you in any way I can moving forward.

"It’s a strange time for me personally as I’ve worked as a police officer since 1996 and I’ve worked at JCSO the last 23 years of my life. It’s all I’ve ever known or wanted to do. I worked my way to the top and I’m now leaving before I was ready to go. I planned on working here another decade but as they say “elections have consequences” and that wasn’t in the cards for me.  

"I think for us all exciting new opportunities will present themselves.  As I leave, I’d like to offer a piece of advice. Remember why you chose to work in public safety in the first place. Remember the joy and passion you had your first day and make sure you still have that same passion today.  I like the saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.  I know I loved working here all these years and I’m confident I will find a new position that gives me the same joy in the future. I wish you all the best forward.

Take care and stay safe.,

Marc Heckathorn, Sheriff"

Article Topic Follows: Jefferson County

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