Merced County’s Animal Control Department welcomed a new leader to its Atwater facility Monday, a longtime sergeant who was the “best choice” to lead the agency, according to the sheriff.
Sheriff’s Department senior patrol Sgt. James Pacheco was selected to oversee the county’s newly restructured animal control operation, beating several other sergeants who applied for the job. Pacheco replaces Animal Services Manager Rick Blackwell, who retired in March.
The Board of Supervisors last week voted to have the Sheriff’s Department take over the management of animal control, removing it from the agricultural commissioner’s supervision.
Merced County Sheriff Tom Cavallero said Pacheco, who has 25 years of law enforcement experience, was clearly the best candidate for the job. In addition to being well-rounded and easygoing, Cavallero said, Pacheco is bilingual.
“All of the candidates had some really good qualifications, but it was clear to me he would be the best choice,” Cavallero said. “He has good experience throughout the agency, but he’s definitely a people person and an animal lover.”
Pacheco, 46, began his new position on Monday, although the full takeover by the Sheriff’s Department won’t happen until Sept. 22. Pacheco’s responsibilities will include managing the new dispatch center at Castle Commerce Center in Atwater.
No salary or benefit increases are associated with the new job, Cavallero said.
Pacheco said he spent the day Monday getting to know the animal control employees and reviewing the agency’s policies and procedures.
“It’s like coming into a whole brand-new job,” Pacheco said. “They have a lot of policies and practices that we’re not familiar with, so I’m trying to bridge that gap and bring them into the Sheriff’s Department family.”
Change is always a little intimidating, Pacheco added, but the animal control staff has been welcoming thus far.
“Anytime there is change, there’s a little bit of trepidation,” he said. “But they know we’re not here to make radical changes. It’s more about what we can offer them, and I think people are excited about that.”
Pacheco, a Le Grand resident, raises 4-H livestock in addition to owning a cat and two dogs.
Pacheco also dabbled in politics in 2012 when he challenged District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo for his seat on the Board of Supervisors. Pacheco hasn’t ruled out another run for office, but not until he hangs up his Sheriff’s Department badge, he said.
“It’s a possibility,” Pacheco said, “but I think I’m going to focus on my law enforcement career until I retire.”
The Sheriff’s Department will also hire a new lieutenant in the near future, Cavallero said.
The Sheriff’s Department will reopen a substation in Delhi that closed in 2010. Eventually, a lieutenant will be assigned to manage animal control and oversee the Delhi office.
In addition to the new lieutenant position, county supervisors last week approved adding nine security systems operators in the corrections department as well as a correctional officer and sergeant. Corrections has lost 16 positions since 2010 because of budget cuts, Cavallero said.
“I think it’s very significant that the board demonstrated their commitment to restoring some of the public safety resources that were lost over the last few years,” the sheriff said. “I know there is more work to do on the public safety sector, but it’s a good start.”
County administrators also set aside $350,000 in matching county funds for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant to hire four new deputies for five years. If approved, the grant would fund 25 percent of the deputies’ salaries for three years; the remaining two years would be funded entirely by the county.
Cavallero said the department will find out next month if it received the grant.