Board Backs Undersheriff as Gillespie's Replacement : Law enforcement: Supervisors are expected to make the appointment Tuesday. Larry Carpenter says coping with budget will be his big challenge.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All five Ventura County supervisors on Friday said they will vote to appoint Undersheriff Larry W. Carpenter to succeed Sheriff John V. Gillespie when he retires at the end of the year.

Carpenter, who is scheduled to be appointed at Tuesday's board meeting, has been with the department since 1969 and has been second-in-command for almost nine years.

"I think I represent stability to the community as well as within the department," Carpenter said Friday.

In his resignation letter, Gillespie recommended that Carpenter replace him, saying he would provide "needed organizational stability."

Gillespie, who cited health reasons in his resignation letter, will leave office Dec. 31, two years before his term expires.

Supervisors Maggie Kildee and Vicky Howard are recommending that Carpenter's appointment be effective Jan. 1.

Carpenter would be taking over as the 1,000-member department reels from a $2.5-million budget cut. About a dozen courthouse officers have been moved to street duty, the Rose Valley Work Camp is shutting down and about 50 vacant positions will be eliminated, said Carpenter, who is in charge of the department's day-to-day operations.

Figuring out how to maintain service on a tighter budget will be his biggest challenge, said Carpenter, who will be paid $98,982 yearly in the top job.

"We had to pretty well shake down the whole department," he said. "I think morale is better than I expected or anticipated. I think everyone is being very, very understanding. They understand that one of our goals is not to lay people off."

Sgt. Bob Young, a patrol supervisor from the west county division, said Carpenter is popular among the approximately 600 rank-and-file deputies. "He's always taken care of his people," Young said. "He's always been in the forefront of getting us the best equipment possible."

Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn said he told Carpenter he would like to see a sheriff's department that was "better representative of Ventura County."

Flynn said, "If you look at the profile of the Sheriff's Department, you would immediately see that there are very few minorities and women."

About 12% of the department's deputies are female, and about 14.5% are minorities. Of the 400 civilian employees, about 59% are female, and about 23.3% are minorities, said Sgt. Mark Ball, who works in the personnel bureau.

The County Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, a group appointed by the county supervisors, has sent a letter to the supervisors calling for open recruitment to fill Gillespie's position.

"The turnover at executive level positions doesn't come often," said Maria Diaz, the county's affirmative action officer. "In order to make sure that we have some diversity at the top--such as minorities and women--we should open up the process."

But Howard said she didn't think outside recruiting was necessary. "Larry Carpenter is the best man for the job at this time."

Carpenter said he understood the concerns of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. "I have supported and will continue to support the hiring and promotion of women and minorities."

The department is promoting more minorities and women to upper management, he said. The next three people up for promotion as division commanders are a Latino, an Asian and a woman, Carpenter said.

Carpenter, 46, was born and raised in Fillmore, where he still lives. He joined the Fillmore Police Department as a reserve officer in 1965 and left to join the Sheriff's Department four years later.

He rose to the rank of sergeant in 1974 and became a lieutenant three years later. He was promoted to commander in 1981, assistant sheriff in 1982 and undersheriff in 1984.

"I'm a known quantity," Carpenter said. "I don't think that I'll let anybody down."

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