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Sheriff decides not to run for re-election.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

After 32 nonstop years in law enforcement, Lane County Sheriff Jan Clements said Tuesday that he's not going to run for a third term in the elected office.

Instead, Clements will throw his support to his chief deputy, Russel Burger, who filed his election papers after the pair's early-afternoon news conference.

In a way, it all came down to time served, Clements said.

"When I sat down and looked at it, I could do another 10 1/2 months or four years and 10 1/2 months," he said. "I decided now is the optimal time to pass the baton."

The county's continuing financial problems - with the possibility of yet another 9 percent reduction in the coming fiscal year - entered into his thinking about the future but didn't determine it, the 54-year-old Clements said.

When he first took office in January 1997, voters had just passed Measure 47, the second of three major statewide tax limitation initiatives. "We have had budget problems since the very beginning of my first term," he said. "It's just something we have to work through."

The sheriff's office may have to cut as much as $2.35 million from the budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year, according to figures prepared by the department. That could mean the closure of 48 more jail beds plus an additional 26 beds at the work release center and the layoff of 26 full-time positions, including a domestic violence deputy and five patrol officers.

The county's detention facilities include 730 beds, Clements said. But fewer than 600 currently can be filled because of lack of money to operate them.

Both he and Burger expressed frustration and sorrow at the necessity of releasing offenders as potentially dangerous as Tomas Ortega-Benitez, who shot and killed his ex-wife, Paula, and held police at bay for several hours in Springfield on Monday. Ortega-Benitez had been released from jail on Feb. 13 on a formula that assigns points to criminals based on earlier crimes and other factors, Burger acknowledged.

"If we could have held that subject in custody, we would have," he said. "He was released because his `points' were lower than other people's on that particular day. There's a lot of work to be done. We have to address the capacity issue - we have a revolving door, with too little opportunity to hold people accountable."

Burger, 41, said he favors a stronger offender management program, including daily reporting to a parole officer or electronic monitoring for many lawbreakers if the jail lacks space to hold them while awaiting court appearances.

Ideally, though, he hopes to "open a conversation" with the public on the necessity of providing adequate and stable funding for law enforcement, he said. He also hopes to pay more attention to the solving of property crimes.

"I've been the victim of a burglary myself, and I know the sense of violation, the sense that your security has been taken away," Burger said.

Before joining the sheriff's office 10 months ago, Burger spent nine years with the Oregon State Police, working his way up to area commander with responsibility for the operations of OSP stations in Springfield, Florence and Oakridge as well as activities throughout Lane County and parts of Linn, Douglas and Klamath counties.

He previously spent nine years with the San Bernardino (Calif.) County Sheriff's Department. He graduated from high school in Sweet Home, then from Oregon State University and California State University in San Bernardino. He trained for law enforcement at San Bernardino Valley College.

Before becoming Lane County sheriff, Clements served with the Eugene Police Department for 25 years "to the day."

One of the high points of his career as sheriff came just two weeks after he took office in a department lacking three high-level officers and having to act as supervising detective in the quick solution to a double shotgun slaying.

Clements also relishes the success of reopening and expanding the Forest Work Camp "and the $250,000 we saved taxpayers in doing it."

Most of all, he said, he will remember the joy of "working with a selfless staff" that not only pitches in to aid ailing colleagues but cooks Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, fixes bicycles for low-income children and sponsors an annual children's art auction to raise money for Head Start.

"They don't do it because I say they should - they just do it," Clements said. "That's the high point."
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Title Annotation:Elections; Jan Clements endorses his chief deputy, Russel Burger, 41, who filed as a candidate to succeed him
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 25, 2004
Words:741
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