By Sarah Pridgeon
Steve Stahla has announced that he will pursue a seat on the County Commission at the upcoming elections. Retiring as Crook County Sheriff after 19 years of serving the community, he believes that he has both the drive and desire to turn his attentions to a different form of public service.
“I want to continue to serve the people.”
Stahla has been watching how things are done on the County Commission for almost two decades, he says, as an elected official. And for most of his adult life, he has served the public.
“Though I have decided to retire from the elected position I hold now, I still have the drive to work for the people. It’s not about me, it’s about what the folks want and need,” he explains.
“I’m excited about it. If the voters will have me and I’m elected, I want to bring some new ideas into that position and offer my experience.”
As sheriff, Stahla has employed the largest number of staff members within a single county office and managed and administered one of the largest budgets in the county, he says. He has never asked for any more than he has needed, he adds, nor overspent on that budget.
“I also administer several line items for the commissioners and have always been very careful with those line items, such as the radio budget,” says Stahla.
He has taken the opportunity through his office to make changes that have brought fiscal improvements to the county as a whole, he continues, such as the Fleet program through which he has been able to purchase and trade vehicles for all departments. He would use this expertise to help him make the most of taxpayer dollars in other ways, he says, should he be elected to the commission.
“The experience of serving as long as I have I think is an asset,” he says.
From his service as sheriff, Stahla believes he has a strong understanding of the community’s needs.
“I have been to every nook and cranny of the county. I know all the areas and I represent, as sheriff, the whole county; I think that’s a very important aspect of the job,” he says.
“Running an office like I have is a day-to-day job, seven days a week, and it’s helped me to see what most of the folks out in the county really want. Sometimes it’s not something you can really put down on paper, but it’s something to realize.”
Stahla also believes that, having retired, he will be able to contribute more of his time to the role of County Commissioner than a candidate with a full-time job or responsibilities.
“I’m retiring from my position, I don’t have another job and I don’t own a business. I want to dedicate my time to the position and, if elected, I want to try some different things,” he says.
“I’d like to be more accessible to the public and perhaps be in the courthouse, with a place to greet people and answer the phone for the commissioners. I’ve worked with the folks for a lot of years and I know that it’s not about me; it’s not about the commissioners, or the sheriff, it’s about the people.”
Stahla says he would hope to build on his good relationships with other elected officials and visit their offices to see where the commissioners could help them do the best job for the public.
“I’ve experienced as sheriff that it’s tough to get the commissioners to come down and spend the time needed to know what we do,” he says.
“I want to be the guy who can dedicate that time – if the officials will have me, because it is their office and I respect that. I think it would help them, help the commissioners and foremost help the people get what they deserve.”
Understanding what each office needs and why it needs it would also help, says Stahla, to guide the commission’s decisions when it comes to spending money. If an elected official is badly in need of an upgraded system or new equipment, his time spent with them would inform him of that need and help him consider it more effectively.
“I want to spend the time it takes to know what we need to do our jobs for the people,” he says.
“You’ve got to be knowledgeable about that stuff and you can’t be knowledgeable spending just a few days a month with it.”
Listening to people, researching and discussing issues in detail is a luxury that Stahla says he could afford, once he has retired as sheriff. He suggests that the role of County Commissioner is moving closer towards needing to be full-time as the years go by and the population grows, now requiring more attention than it once did.
“I appreciate the commissioners I’ve worked with, I’ve had some great commissioners, but they’ve also stepped up to the plate when they had other obligations and jobs. It’s tough to do it all, so I respect what they’ve done, but I will have more time than most of them have and I want to dedicate that time,” he says.
“I have no axes to grind, I just see that we need to move in a positive direction and I think I can help with that, at the right pace.”
For Stahla, seeking an elected position on the County Commission would also not be a short-term commitment.
“I want to make a career out of it. I’m not looking for a part-time job just for four years, I want to stay there for as long as it takes to do the job that needs to be done,” he says.
“For me, it’s not a one-term job and, though I realize the election part of it, I will work hard for the people and keep them in front where they ought to be.”
Stahla strongly encourages members of the public to contact him with questions and concerns.
“You can email me at [email protected] and my home phone number is in the phone book,” he says.
“It always has been, and I’ve always taken just as many calls at my house as at the office. I have no problem with that, and if I’m not there people can leave a message and I will get back to them.”