Sheriff Marc Heckathorn resigns after losing election
Marc Heckathorn is done working as the Jefferson County Sheriff, but he will be paid as if he was working until the end of his term through December.
The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners agreed Wednesday to pay Heckathorn an $82,625 severance package — what he would have earned by working through the end of December — to leave office June 20. Heckathorn will be taking vacation time between now and June 20.
The move opens the door for Deputy Jason Pollock — who beat Heckathorn with 52% of the vote in the May primary election, and is the only candidate whose name will be on the ballot for sheriff in November — to take office early. The commission plans at their June 8 meeting to appoint Pollock to the position effective at 5:01 p.m. June 20.
"I just signed a negotiated separation agreement between myself and Jefferson County," Heckathorn said in an email to his staff Wednesday. "This will allow (Pollock) 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."
The agreement includes that the entire severance package monetary total will be delivered to Heckathorn in 10 days.
Heckathorn signed the agreement, but has seven days to change his mind. Heckathorn will not be eligible for rehire at the sheriff's office until after February 2026.
Without this appointment, and assuming Pollock would win the November election, Pollock would have taken office Jan. 3, 2023.
None of the three commissioners, Kelly Simmelink, Wayne Fording or Mae Houston, wanted to comment on what they called a sensitive situation.
The commissioners appointed Heckathorn sheriff effective July 1, 2021 to replace retiring Sheriff Jim Adkins.
Heckathorn immediately launched the campaign for the jail levy, which passed in November, and for his own re-election.
In February, shortly before the filing deadline, Heckathorn filed papers and paid the fee for a third candidate, Rick DuPont, to enter the race. Heckathorn openly stated DuPont was his supporter, not a genuine opponent. It was Heckathorn's strategy to create a three-person race so it would be decided in the May primary.
In Oregon, election law mandates a three-way race goes to a primary vote to determine the top two vote-getters. If none of them gets more than 50%, then the top two face off in November. In a sheriff's race, if one person gets more than 50%, that candidate goes forward as the only name on the ballot in November. In a two-person race, both candidates proceed directly to the November general election without a May primary.
Heckathorn filing for a third candidate didn't sit well with some voters. Then, one week after ballots went to voters, and with less than a week before Election Day, a bombshell changed the course of the race.
Retired Sheriff Jim Adkins, who had recommended Heckathorn as his replacement, and Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche jointly endorsed Pollock over Heckathorn.
The combination of filing a third candidate and the late endorsement helped turn the tide in the election and it was Pollock who earned the right to be the only candidate on the ballot in November.
The weekend following the election, Heckathorn cleaned out his desk. "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," Heckathorn said in the June 1 memo to staff. "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."
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