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No longer sheriff, but with years to go before retirement, Heckathorn weighs his options

Two weeks ago Marc Heckathorn planned on serving as Jefferson County Sheriff for the next decade. The May 17 election changed that. Voters chose Deputy Jason Pollock to be the next sheriff.

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Sheriff Marc Heckathorn considers his next steps as he resigns from his post as Sheriff. He says he hasn't had to look for employment since 1999.

Heckathorn could have completed his term through the end of the year, but chose instead to negotiate a settlement with the county to step aside June 20 in exchange for the $83,000 he would have earned in that time. After 26 years in law enforcement and 23 years with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Heckathorn is on the job market.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Marc Heckathorn in his early days with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. He knew he wanted to work in law enforcement when he was a student at Madras High School.

"I have not needed to look for employment since 1999," said Heckathorn. "I can't start drawing my retirement benefits for another three-and-a-half years, as I need to be 50 and I'm 46, so I will need to do something else." Heckathorn says he's leaving all doors open, but conditions of the agreement limits the possibilities. For example, he can't work for Jefferson County until February of 2026.

"The county doesn't want to face liability of the sheriff's office advertising for a position I qualify for and I apply but am not hired," said Heckathorn. He adds the county has the ability to waive this language at its discretion.

Retirement concerns further restrict Heckathorn's options. He must work with a fire or police agency under Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System, or risk a reduction in his retirement benefits, but he's not ruling out working in the private sector. Whatever Heckathorn does for employment, he says he will not move away. "This is my home and where I will stay. I've had an awesome career and I'm proud of what I accomplished." Heckathorn approached the county about negotiating a settlement two days after the election. He said the discussion centered on risk management. "We all know what Deschutes County paid in a similar situation," said Heckathorn. "A million dollars went to the deputy that was fired after the election."

Although he was entitled to his previous job at the end of his term as sheriff, Heckathorn says he heard from multiple sources the incoming sheriff was not likely to keep him on staff.

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Sheriff Marc Heckathorn consults with Corporal Jim Wyatt at the Jefferson County Jail intake center. Heckathorn considers passage of the Jail Levy one of his accomplishments as sheriff.

"It's sad for me personally to leave without accomplishing all I had hoped," said Heckathorn, "but I had some big accomplishments."

While sheriff, among other things Heckathorn saw the passage of a five-year jail levy, held a citizen academy, and created a Peer Support Team.

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