ADA COUNTY, Idaho — Ada County Commissioners named Lt. Matt Clifford as the next Ada County Sheriff Friday.
The board voted 2-1 to name Clifford as the 39th Sheriff, with Chairman Rod Beck and Commissioner Kendra Kenyon both voting yes. Commissioner Ryan Davidson voted no.
Before the vote, Kenyon said that more than 90% of employees at the sheriff's office supported Clifford for the position.
“All the candidates brought to the table a lot of good qualities and traits," Kenyon said. "But what I'm looking for is somebody who can build confidence, public trust, that we can have continuity of our organization and operations, who will those carry core values forward and has leadership in management experience as well as budgeting and planning. This is a $100 million budget that they are having to administer as well 800 employees.”
Commissioner Davidson didn't comment as to why he voted no, but prior to the vote, he said he would prefer for an "outsider" to get the role.
"As an outsider myself, I feel like sometimes a fresh pair of eyes into government systems can identify problems and issues that might go unaddressed that are part of that system," he said.
Davidson said there were extensive background checks done on two of the candidates, and they read some of the evaluations they received for Doug Traubel. Commissioners Beck and Kenyon raised concerns about Traubel's past social media posts and his published book during the interview process on Wednesday.
"It's my worry that the author's message is probably not being perceived by the public in the way he wanted it to be. This is a Republican state, but we are, in my opinion, burdened with a far left-wing media in Ada County and they tend to consistently misrepresent Republican officials," Davidson said. "One of my biggest concerns is that the issues with one of the candidate’s writings will be an endless source of fodder for editorial pages and news channels for months to come.”
Clifford beat out candidates Traubel and Mike Chilton for the job. He says a focus will be working on the programs to reduce the inmate population and supports getting more bilingual officers and staff for the sheriff's office.
“We have some really new programs coming up with our community transition center and expanding our pre-trial release. Those types of things are going to be a positive impact on the public and a positive impact on taxpayers as far as not having to house many inmates. We’ll see what the future brings for jail expansion," he said.
Clifford will serve as the sheriff for one year and will have to run for the post in 2022.
“It sure shows that if you get involved in your government, and let your elected officials know what how you think and which direction you would like them to go, it means something. I would like to thank everybody, all the elected officials who back me, the mayors, the public, friends, family. The only way I can really thank them back is to do a good job and keep the agency running smoothly as it does and provide good service to the public," Clifford said.
In a statement, Clifford called it an "honor" to be named the next sheriff:
“It is truly an honor to be allowed to serve the citizens in Ada County in this way and I am very grateful to the Board for selecting me. I understand what an incredible privilege — and awesome responsibility — this is, and I can’t wait to begin!
I promise to do whatever I can, every day, to make Ada County a safer place to live, work, and play.
I am also truly humbled by the outpouring of support from my colleagues at the ACSO and from the public. It is so empowering to know that I can hit the ground running with your support to continue to provide the best possible service for our community.
I understand the last month or so has been a challenging time for the 750+ people who work at the sheriff’s office.
We are a dynamic, capable, and confident group of people who had their trust in leadership shaken – but I am pleased to say their performance and dedication to public service did not waiver. I am proud to be able to lead this group of people.
I applaud the commissioners for recognizing this is the best way forward for our agency. I look forward to building on the trust our agency has earned with our community over the last several decades. Thank you.
Clifford was the Eagle Police Chief. He previously told commissioners he took several roles throughout his law enforcement career from jail, patrol deputy, K-9 handler, and held supervisory positions.
Meridian Mayor Robert Simison applauded the decision Friday afternoon.
"I applaud the decision of Chairman Rod Beck and Commissioner Kendra Kenyon for selecting Lieutenant Matt Clifford as our next Ada County Sheriff," Simison said in a statement. "They made the right choice as Lieutenant Clifford not only has the knowledge, skills, and abilities, but he has instilled trust and demonstrated leadership for the citizens through this process. Public Safety is paramount for Meridian to maintain our safe and thriving community. Chief Basterrechea and I look forward to working closely with our new Sheriff to ensure the health and safety of Meridian and all of Ada County."
Clifford will be sworn in next week, replacing former Sheriff Steve Bartlett who resigned in May.