The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners authorized adding another deputy position to the sheriff’s office Thursday morning, giving the county its 18th patrol deputy on staff.

The authorization moves a deputy who had previously been contracted from the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office to serve in the county’s community corrections division back to the UCSO.

While the deputy had also requested a transfer back to the sheriff’s office, Commissioner George Murdock said, the community corrections division lacks the state funding to continue its contract.

The move also continues the county’s commitment to expanding its patrol force, which has remained a priority since a public safety levy was voted down in 2013.

Murdock said the county only had seven deputies on staff at the time and public comments and polling indicated it was the highest priority for taxpayers. The levy would have added 18 deputies to the county in one fell swoop and was a surprise when voters rejected it resoundingly.

Entering 2020, Murdock highlighted the need to continue the county’s criminal division expansion as something he hoped to accomplish.

“We’ve made a lot of headway over the years,” he said in an interview on Monday. “Our polling data and conversations with the public show that public safety remains a high priority.”

Later during Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners reappointed Robert Wolfe to the Umatilla County Fair Board and filled the board’s upcoming vacancy by appointing Michael Engelbrecht as the board-elect.

“He was primarily selected because of his experience,” said Commissioner Bill Elfering, who was a part of the interview process for candidates. “He was very familiar with the board duties and has interacted with the board in the past.”

Engelbrecht works at Barrett Business Services Inc. (BBSI) in Hermiston and has volunteered and contributed to the fair in previous years, according to Elfering.

Engelbrecht will fill the seat vacated by Stephen Anderson, who’s not eligible for reappointment when his term concludes at the end of 2020.

As the first board meeting of the new year, Thursday also marked the official appointment of Commissioner John Shafer as the new county chairman, while Murdock’s role reverts to vice chairman.

The change mostly means Shafer becomes the board of commissioners’ spokesman, or the “voice of the county” as he’s put it, and he’ll lead the board’s meetings. Murdock, who has held the role for several years, said the chairman takes the lead on overseeing much of the day-to-day operations because the county doesn’t have a manager.

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