January 10, 2014

Swiggart to seek Merced County sheriff job

Frank Swiggart officially launched his campaign for sheriff on Friday at the Merced County Peace Officers’ Memorial.

Sgt. Frank Swiggart, a 23-year veteran of law enforcement, officially entered the race for Merced County sheriff on Friday.

Swiggart, 47, made his announcement in front of the Merced County Peace Officers Memorial while surrounded by family, friends and supporters.

“On the heels of a year with record homicides, we were only a few hours into the new year when Merced experienced its first murder,” he said, in his speech. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to stop talking in circles around problems and start doing what is necessary to keep residents safe.”

For three years, Swiggart has been head of the Merced Community College Police Department, which is operated by the Sheriff’s Department. His job includes supervising the police department for both the Merced and Los Banos campuses.

Swiggart’s career started in 1990 when he became a reserve deputy of the Sheriff’s Department. He also served as a detective and deputy before taking on the sergeant’s role.

During his speech, Swiggart said the county faces “numerous” challenges, including drug and gang problems and Assembly Bill 109, which aims to reduce prison overpopulation by allowing nonserious, non-violent and nonsexual offenders to serve their time in county jails instead of state prisons.

“When elected, my first order of business will be to give more resources and direction for our front-line unit,” he said.

Four others have declared their intentions to run for the office.

Senior Sgt. Rich Howard, 43, who has confirmed intentions to run, is the supervisor of the Merced County Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force.

Pat Lunney, 66, has been chief of investigations for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office since 2008. He also served as chief of the Merced Police Department for 15 years.

Livingston City Councilman Jim Soria confirmed his plans to run for sheriff this month. The 45-year-old said he has more than 25 years of experience in public safety and law enforcement, serving in the Newman, Ceres, Mendota and Dos Palos police departments.

Vern Warnke, a retired senior sergeant and part-time deputy for the Sheriff’s Department, pulled papers at the end of December. Warnke, 55, retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2008 after 29 years and now works as a part-time deputy.

Undersheriff Tom Cavallero was appointed last month to finish the term of the outgoing sheriff, Mark Pazin, who was appointed to head the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Branch. Cavallero has said he does not intend to run for the office in November.

The salary range for sheriff is $133,952 to $163,092 per year, according to Merced County’s website.

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