2009-06-26 / Front Page

Brooks sees budget through board, announces he'll retire after 36 years

By Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

Brooks Brooks Sheriff Bob Brooks said last week he will not seek reelection next year.

"I have been honored to serve with the Ventura County Sheriff 's Department for 36 years, 11 of them as your sheriff," Brooks said. "This career has allowed me to work with some of the most talented and dedicated men and women that can be found anywhere."

The announcement by the 59-year-old Simi Valley resident means that for the first time in more than 30 years the election for sheriff will be contested.

Cmdr. Geoff Dean, 52, has said he will run for sheriff, while Chief Dep. Dennis Carpenter, 56, is expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks.

The two Camarillo residents are longtime command officers with the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Brooks, who has said he may run for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors if incumbent Peter Foy decides to make a bid for governor, has openly backed Carpenter to succeed him.

The sheriff's deputies union has given its support to Dean.

"The sheriff has been a mentor and a coach to many of the command staff members, and he is going to be missed," said Carpenter, who has known Brooks for 32 years, since the pair worked together as patrol deputies in Newbury Park.

Brooks had said earlier this month he wanted to see the sheriff 's department budget through the Ventura County Board of Supervisors before announcing whether he planned to seek a fourth term.

Early last week, the board of supervisors approved a $215million budget for the sheriff's department.

Large declines in property and sales tax meant the department faced more than $13 million in budget cuts. The board of supervisors, however, approved a one-time $5-million payout to help the department meet costs.

"This is a one-year deal, and we will reevaluate it next year and see where we are next year," said Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long.

The department also receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is expected to receive stimulus money earmarked for law enforcement, Long said.

Brooks said the department has already made a number of cost-cutting restructuring moves that put civilian employees into management positions typically held by deputies. In addition, the department is not filling positions left by retiring officers.

Long said budget negotiations between the supervisors and the sheriff were "cooperative," which hasn't always been the case.

In 2003, the sheriff's department and the district attorney's office sued the board of supervisors for allegedly misappropriating about $50 million in tax money that was earmarked for public safety.

The lawsuit was settled in 2005 with an agreement that defined how public safety agencies are allocated funds under Proposition 172, a 1993 law that created a fixed amount of sales tax revenue intended for law enforcement and judicial proceedings.

Long said the "very rocky relationship" between the board of supervisors and law enforcement has warmed during Brooks' tenure.

"I think (Brooks) has faced some tough times and weathered those times, which has put us in a much better relationship today than what we had 12 years ago," Long said.

A graduate of the University of Redlands with master's degrees from the Regent University and the Naval Post Graduate School, Brooks has been married for 39 years. He and his wife, Debbie, have two grown sons.

Reflecting back on his time as sheriff, Brooks said that one of his biggest disappointments was the fact that a new jail wasn't built in Ventura County.

He said that although local jails are overcrowded, state money wasn't available for building a new facility or for expanding the Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula.

Brooks, who credited his friends, family and faith for his success, said he's most proud of the people he's worked with during more than 30 decades with the department.

"I'm proud of the people we've been able to hire, train and bring into a culture of very specific value. . . . That's what I look back on with a great deal of satisfaction," he said.

Despite the fact that Brooks said the only way to prepare for the job is to do it, he offered the following advice to his successor:

"If I had to advise someone coming into this job, I would advise them on keeping their eye on the mission of protecting the public and treating your employees as a family, and everything else will fall together over time," said Brooks, adding, "I am a more complete leader at this point than when I began."

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