Jim Roache, San Diego County’s first new sheriff in 20 years, was sworn into office Friday in a ceremony filled with optimism and team spirit.
Roache took the oath of office inside the Board of Supervisors chambers Friday morning, where the festivities had been moved when rain scuttled a planned outdoor venue.
About 900 people showed up for the ceremony, which included several other county officials taking their oaths of office. The crowd filled the chambers, spilling into nearby meeting rooms that carried the ceremony on television monitors.
As he did in his maverick campaign, Roache emphasized the need for change in the Sheriff’s Department and the need to restore public confidence in the much-criticized agency that for two decades was led by John Duffy.
“With a firm commitment to restore this department, we took our case to the people,” said Roache. “As a 19-year veteran of this department, I took no joy in setting forth its deficiencies. My friends and colleagues in the department were as painfully aware as I was of the need for basic change.
“But the election is now behind us,” he said. “The mandate from the voters for change is unmistakable.”
A few hours later, another swearing-in ceremony was held at the Marriott Hotel and Marina for Roache’s top four administrators, Capt. Jay LaSuer, Capt. Maudie Bobbitt, Cmdr. Mel Nichols and Assistant Sheriff Clifford R. Powell.
The group took their oathes of office in front of more than 100 relatives, close friends and members of the Sheriff’s Department during the afternoon ceremony.
“No organization can effectively be administered and managed by one individual,” Roache said before introducing his management team.
“We all have our distinct roles and obligations. . . . Consequently, one individual, no matter who it may be as sheriff, needs others throughout the organization and the community to effectively provide good public service.”
Roache, whose term officially begins Monday at noon, appointed LaSuer as undersheriff, the No. 2 post in the department.
LaSuer has been with the department 20 years, and was captain of the Poway station for the past 4 1/2 years. He will act as sheriff in Roache’s absence.
Bobbitt, a 21-year veteran, was captain of the Santee station and became the county’s first female assistant sheriff. She will be in charge of general law enforcement, including all patrol services.
Powell, a recognized jail expert, came out of retirement to serve as assistant sheriff in charge of jails until a permanent person can be found.
Nichols, who supported Roache’s opponent in the election, Jack Drown, was named assistant sheriff in charge of administrative services.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk about bad morale,” Nichols said when it came his turn to give a few words.
“I haven’t seen it. I think everybody is willing to get together and get behind (Roache) and put our department on the right track. . . . I would encourage your cooperation, and let’s get on with it.”
Roache defeated Drown, a handpicked candidate of outgoing Sheriff John Duffy, in the Nov. 2 election by a solid margin of 60,000 votes.