Sheriff Adkins plans to retire in two months
"It actually feels really good!" says Sheriff Jim Adkins, 57, "I've been praying about this because I was hoping the Lord would let me know. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders."
Homegrown in Jefferson County, Adkins grew up in law enforcement. His father, Larry Adkins, was an Oregon State Police Trooper.
"I always wanted to be in law enforcement because of him," says Adkins.
During his 35 years with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Adkins moved up the ranks, then down and then back up again.
He's held the top position for 11 years but started as a Marine Patrol deputy in May of 1986. That fall, he began what the then sheriff promised would be a two-month stint as a corrections deputy in the jail.
"That two months turned into two years," says Adkins with a chuckle. "It's probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I had some growing up to do. Working in a jail teaches you how to deal with people who are incarcerated."
Adkins moved up to patrol deputy, then patrol sergeant, then undersheriff under Sheriff Michael Throop.
When Throop left the office, Adkins ran against Jack Jones and lost. As politics would have it, Adkins dropped down the ladder. "(Jones) gave me the opportunity to work in the jail as a sergeant or a deputy on the road," says Adkins. "I took the graveyard patrol shift."
Adkins says he wanted to prove to Sheriff Jones that he could do the job and be loyal.
"So I worked really hard. We repaired our relationship. He promoted me to patrol sergeant, then to undersheriff."
When Jones left the office, the county commissioners gave Adkins the top badge. That was May of 2010. Voters elected him in November of 2010, and he's been the sheriff ever since.
Madras Police Chief Tanner Stanfill says Adkins will be missed. "He's been dedicated to Jefferson County. He's been a law-and-order sheriff," says Stanfill. "He believes in holding people accountable. Especially for somebody that's in charge of a jail that's immensely important."
"He did a great job," says County Commissioner Wayne Fording. "He's well respected by not only the people that work for him, but well respected by his constituents too." Fording says Adkins has a great working relationship with the county commissioners. "We've been so fortunate that way because it's not always that cordial from what you see around the state."
"I want people to remember me as a hardworking individual who really cared about how they were treated," says Adkins. "People, whether arrested or not, still need to be treated with dignity and respect. That's how I want people to remember me, is that I really cared about how my office performed and that we cared for the people."
The Jefferson County Commissioners will appoint Adkin's replacement. He has met with each of them individually to lobby for his first choice.
"The only person in my office that is capable to take the sheriff's office to the next level," says Adkins, "who knows the office inside and out, and who can do a good job in the campaign for the upcoming jail levy, is Marc Heckathorn."
Adkins says if Heckathorn wins the appointment, he may have to run for office at the same time as he campaigns for another jail levy.
"I don't know that I have the energy that is required to go out and do another campaign," says Adkins. "Now is a perfect opportunity for young blood, a different thinker to take the helm and take us into the future."
Adkins has been mulling this decision over for the past two years. Since he finalized the decision, he's excited about the future. He has a countdown on his phone, which as of publication, will be 84 days.
"I know my staff are kind of bummed because they don't like change," says Adkins. "If I retire today or four years from now, the feeling is going to be the same."
He volunteers that his wife, Greta Adkins, enjoys her job at the courthouse and has no plans to retire any time soon.
"We're not going anywhere, we're not going to disappear," says Adkins. He has no grand plans other than a few projects around the house. He accomplished his goal of serving more years in police work, 35, than his father, who retired after 31 years.
"Now I can help the next sheriff be successful," says Adkins.
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