Last week’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting was notable for several reasons. But one was both sad, good and worthy. The board and the county recognized several important public servants who are departing the public sector.
The Sheriff’s Department will lose several senior officials who have watched over this community. Foremost is Sheriff Stan Sniff, who was defeated in his re-election bid last month and will leave office in early January. Sniff has spent more than 45 years in law enforcement and most of that in Riverside County. He has been sheriff since his appointment in 2007.
Several of his senior staff also are retiring, including Chief Deputy Lyndon “Ray” Wood, who had served as captain of the Hemet Station several years ago and still returns to the Hill, not just for meetings.
Also, former county Fire Chief John Hawkins was recognized for his service and dedication to the county for more than a decade. He has not yet retired from Cal Fire, but the supervisors wanted to acknowledge and honor his efforts to help protect and improve Riverside County. Hawkins was removed by Cal Fire as fire chief in January 2018. The state has never offered an explanation.
As each supervisor read a section of their proclamation honoring him, they added personal comments about their esteem for him and his devotion to the job.
For example, 5th District Supervisor Marion Ashley said, “Of all the fire chiefs I’ve had, he’s the one I think performed the best for the county and is my favorite.”
Or 2nd District Supervisor John Tavaglione who added, “Pushed for change is an understatement. He has a heart of gold and was focus on the well-being of firefighters.”
And 1st District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said, “He was the most dedicated chief I’ve ever worked with, an outstanding chief.”
Speaking for himself, Hawkins wrote in an email later in the week, “I was honored to serve 11 ½ years as the Cal Fire Riverside Unit/Riverside County Fire Department fire chief and a total of 15 years in the local unit. I am very proud of our firefighters, foresters and support personnel who helped me at every juncture.
“I am honored with the support and assistance provided by all our county and partner-city elected and appointment officials. They were always there for the best public safety service to the public.”
About the groups in Idyllwild, he said, “Working with the Mountain Area Safety Task Force, the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council and the Mountain Disaster program groups and individuals was a particular honor. We accomplished a lot.
“I credit the disaster preparations, financial grant sponsors, community fuel reductions and roof replacements, table top and major field training drills, and the willingness of all agencies and private groups to cooperate as key to the overall success during the 2018 Cranston Fire.”
Tavaglione and Ashley also were at their last official board meeting. Both retired and did not seek re-election in November.