Email from sheriff notes early retirement; Dickerson expected to meet with county commissioners Wednesday

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson is likely to step down from his position ahead of the end of his term.

What appears to be a leaked internal email from Dickerson on Thursday, April 26, states the sheriff will be retiring effective June 1.

Dickerson"I will be retiring from the Office of Sheriff," the email attributed to Dickerson notes. "The leadership of the Sheriff's Office will remain in excellent hands with your division commanders, who will continue to serve, even as I work with the Board of County Commissioners to identify the individual who will take the reins of the organization until the next election."

The news appeared to catch personnel in the Sheriff's Office and other areas of county government by surprise.

Dickerson later released a statement,Thursday afternoon, acknowledging his retirement plans and praising the accomplishments of his staff.

"I've known for some time now, that I would not be seeking a fourth term as Sheriff," Dickerson stated via email. "I have loved every day that I've been allowed to serve in this capacity, however – after nearly 10 years as sheriff and 30 years in this profession – I believe that now is the right time to retire for me and for my family who have stood beside me all these years with their love, prayers and support.

"Ten years ago I believed that a commitment to doing the right thing for the right reasons and that a sincere desire to build an organization on that foundation would—over time—create a positive, effective culture here at the Sheriff's Office. What we've seen as the result is an increasingly powerful commitment to our mission and vision that has carried us to new heights of excellence in public service.

"Of course, we haven't been perfect. We've had our ups. We've had our downs. We've had to take corrective actions. But we've grown. We've changed.

"I want to express my gratitude to the people of Columbia County for giving me the opportunity to serve.

"I also wish to thank those Commissioners and County department heads over the years who've had our backs and who came alongside our vision to help carry us toward our goals.

"I especially wish to express my gratitude to my small, but dedicated staff who has stepped up to take us to a higher level.

"Together, we overcame many barriers— my staff not shying away from the task, but asking for more responsibility, more weight to be laid on their shoulders. It has all added up to one promising future!

I will most definitely miss this job—and especially the ability to share in this mission and vision with some of the best people on earth. We have come a long way together. I am thankful to them for each day of these past 10 years. I will never forget them or what we've accomplished together."

Lt. Brian Pixley, the Sheriff's Office spokesman, could not address Dickerson's retirement and noted the sheriff is currently on sick leave. He added, however, that Dickerson is expected to address his retirement notice upon his return.

"I know the sheriff wants to address it," Pixley said. "It will be addressed when he returns next week."

Pixley would not confirm if the email from Dickerson was distributed to all Sheriff's Office personnel.

Columbia County spokeswoman Karen Kane on Thursday confirmed Dickerson spoke with Commissioner Henry Heimuller on Wednesday, April 25, and Commissioner Margaret Magruder earlier in the week.

"He has talked with the commissioners and said he's not running, and then later decided he was going to retire," Kane said when asked about Dickerson's retirement. Dickerson is scheduled to meet with the county commissioners at a Columbia County work session Wednesday, May 2.

Dickerson, who was reelected in 2016, was first elected to the county sheriff position in 2008.

It's unclear who will serve in the sheriff's position, if vacated early.

Dickerson has overseen the Sheriff's Office during a tumultuous jail levy campaign to bring in special tax funding for the Columbia County Jail, and most recently, has been at the helm during two internal investigations of sheriff's deputies and a pending criminal investigation of another deputy by Oregon State Police.

Dickerson also commissioned a district attorney and grand jury review of a controversial use of force in the jail involving a sheriff's canine earlier this year. An attorney representing Christopher Bartlett, the man subdued by the canine, alleges sheriff's deputies lied about the circumstances of the dog attack.

Additionally, commissioners approved a settlement agreement with a former Sheriff's Office reserve deputy Wednesday afternoon. The terms of the settlement agreement have yet to be released.

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