Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney to step down, take federal job

Gary Raney, Ada County’s sheriff since 2005, said his departure from office will come at the end of June, and he will then take a part-time contract job with the Department of Justice.

“It’s been an absolutely wonderful career and I still love my job to this day. I look forward to coming to work. I love the people I work with, and that’s really what job happiness is,” Raney said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “But there’s a time for everything. When I first took office as sheriff, I said that when I’ve taken the Sheriff’s Office where I can take it and I’ve done what I wanted to do, then I’ll move on and do something else.”

In his next job, Raney will provide problem-solving assistance to local police agencies that seek federal help to improve their departments. The Justice Department will assemble teams of experts to go into a community for several months or up to a year and a half. Raney said he considers himself a problem-solver, and his new position will allow him to tackle important issues.

“I had five triggers that my wife and I wanted” in considering a new position, Raney said. “I wanted to continue to learn. I wanted to continue to be relevant in making change. I wanted to be able to set my own schedule. I wanted to stay living in Idaho. And whatever I did, it’s got to be fun, because life is too short.”

Raney, 52, grew up on a farm in Caldwell, was a member of a Caldwell police Explorer group in high school and began his police career with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office in 1983. He started out as a jail deputy, later worked on patrol and moved up the ranks from detective to sergeant to a lieutenant overseeing patrol operations. In 2000, Sheriff Vaughn Killeen suggested Raney prepare to succeed him in four years. In 2002 he was promoted from captain to undersheriff. He was elected in 2004.

He will leave with about 18 months left in his third four-year term.

Raney’s possible successor, Capt. Stephen Bartlett, 44, has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for about 12 years. He formerly served as chief of police in Eagle under the city’s contract with the Ada sheriff. He also worked for the Garden City Police Department and the Payette County Sheriff’s Office.

“He’s intelligent and thoughtful and will make a good sheriff,” Raney said.

Raney said Maj. Ron Freeman is also qualified, but Freeman told him he would not seek the job.

The Ada County Republican Central Committee is expected to meet late next month and submit a list of three nominees to Ada County commissioners, who will make the final selection. Because Raney is a Republican, the nominees must come from his party.

The sheriff said he is proud of his work to use research and data to “make smart decisions” to ensure that money is spent wisely. Those decisions have helped to reduce recidivism among inmates and to better handle situations with people suffering from mental illness, he said.

Raney also said he’s proud of the people he oversees. “I can’t emphasize enough the quality of the men and the women who work here. The culture is what makes this a great place,” he said. “ ... They do a great job every day.”

One of Raney’s first federal projects will be to help a large city that attracts large numbers of tourists. The city, which he did not identify, has problems with visitors who get into trouble, get arrested and clog up the local court system. Because they’re not residents, they often do not show up for court cases, Raney said.

“We’ll be stepping back and rethinking the whole thing about how could we make this more effective and not clog up the court process,” he said.

He will also work with another city to look at how the city can better deal with mental health cases in the criminal justice system.

He said this opportunity matches what he said years ago would be a dream job for him after he retired from the Sheriff’s Office. He said he has been talking with officials from the Justice Department for the past three or four months.

“I was ready to serve the full term, but this opportunity came forward. They said they have a need for me specifically with my skill set,” Raney said. “It will be different, but change is good.”

John Sowell: 377-6423; Twitter: @IDS_Sowell