Sheriff candidate Donny Youngblood

Kern County Voter’s Guide

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Sheriff candidate Donny Youngblood“You cannot compare Ridgecrest with Bakersfield,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who is running for a fourth term in office.

That comment was in response to the perception that Indian Wells Valley residents are underserved by his agency. “That perception has been around as long as I’ve been a deputy. It was the same when I was a sergeant in Mojave and Boron — people on this side of the mountains feel like they are getting the short end of the stick, no matter what the issue. And maybe sometimes they are.

“But it terms of staffing, I can tell you that’s not true.”

Youngblood said that since the county’s top revenue producer came in 65 percent under projections, departments throughout Kern have been feeling the pain of those reductions.

“Ridgecrest is short two deputies right now. But Mojave is short five, and Bakersfield … let’s put it this way — when I was a patrol commander in the late 1980s, I fielded 83 deputies. Today we have 50. So these cuts have been spread out as fairly as I could do with the personnel I have.”

He said that part of his staffing decisions are driven by crime trends, which are far more concentrated in the metropolitan areas of the county. “Remember we have a homicide every third day in Bakersfield. You cannot compare Ridgecrest with Bakersfield.

“Ridgecrest is the largest population in California that does not have an entrenched gang element. This area is really a diamond in the rough — I don’t know of any other community like this,” he said.

“No place is perfect, but Ridgecrest is about as close as you can get.”

Youngblood first ran for sheriff in 2006, and for the last two terms has run uncontested. In the last four years, he has been criticized — mostly by outsiders to Kern County — for his opposition against California trends such as the legalization of marijuana, Sanctuary City status and the state mandates that have reduced incarceration of convicted criminals.

“I can adamantly say ‘no’ — our state’s reforms in public safety are not working.”

The decriminalization of drug-related offenses has driven up property crime, he said, because addicts are resorting to theft to support their habits. “We can no longer lock those people up. So when you no longer have a deterrent, all you have done is created more victims.”

But he points to glimmers of hope in the future in what he believes are the main challenges for his department.

“First, we are finally starting to see blowback on Propositions 47 and 57. Second, we are finally starting to see a recovery in the price of oil, which means our budget is now trending in the right direction.”

Youngblood said that he has also worked to secure a more positive working relationship with County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. “It is important you understand I didn’t have a great relationship with our other CAO, John Nilon.”

He said that Nilon placed the burden of cuts on the sheriff’s office, while sparing the fire department. “I’m not knocking my fire partners, but if you go to Taft at midnight on a Friday, there are maybe two sheriff’s deputies on patrol and 15 firemen asleep in their beds. That doesn’t sit well with me,” he said.

“But Ryan Alsop came in, and we have a great relationship. I think he’s as honest as the day is long, and he sees that we have borne the brunt of the budget cuts.”

He acknowledged that the sheriff’s office has a long way to go before recovering. “None of these things can be changed overnight. And we are still losing deputies faster than we can train them.”

Youngblood also announced recently that he believes Alsop and a majority of the Kern County Board of Supervisors will approve new funding to re-open the Ridgecrest jail.

“You also have a casino hanging out there, so we are going to get dedicated funding from them. And we can because that will lead to an increase in arrests and a much higher need for the jail,” he said.

“Look at the crime stats around any casino — we know we are going to see an increase in crime.”

Youngblood noted that he thinks it is inappropriate to solicit endorsements from the personnel the sheriff manages, but he said that the most prominent elected officials in Kern County — including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, State Sen. Jean Fuller, State Sen. Candidate Shannon Grove, Assemblyman Vince Fong and Supervisor Mick Gleason — have all backed him.

Story First Published: 2018-05-25