Wallowa County Sheriff, Steve Rogers, just returned from Reno, Nevada with a little something extra, but it wasn’t from the tables or slot machines. The Western States Sheriffs Association voted Rogers onto its board of directors as its Sergeant-at-Arms. Rogers was attending the association’s annual conference on March 3-7.
The sheriff said that as far as he knew, he was only the second Oregon sheriff voted on to the board of directors. The group represents county sheriffs from 17 states.
The association describes their mission as: “to assist sheriffs and their offices with federal and state legislative issues, address policy and procedural matters, develop guidelines to promote uniformity in matters that are important to sheriffs of the western United States and to work together to keep the office of the sheriff strong.” Oregon has a 100 percent membership of its county sheriffs and Rogers started his membership upon becoming sheriff although he previously attended the group’s training sessions
Rogers said that western sheriffs organized the group in 1993 to give voice to western states. He pointed to issues such as public lands and even civil rights issues.
“Such as first and second amendment rights,” he said. Rogers added the group has taken on several issues, but border security is the issue of the moment.
Malheur County Sheriff, Brian Wolfe, nominated Rogers for the post.
The board had two openings and only one person stepped to the plate. Wolfe and Rogers looked at each other for a moment before the Malheur sheriff nominated him. A Montana sheriff was nominated a moment later.
Rogers thought he could bow out but the other Oregon sheriffs had a different idea.
“They turned around and looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you dare.’”
Rogers didn’t bow out. The first round of voting between Rogers and the other candidate came out in a dead heat. Before the start of the second, Rogers was in for a surprise.
“We had to step up and give a speech,” he said with a laugh. “I had like three minutes to prepare for this thing.”
Rogers spoke about a speech earlier given to the group by former U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft and sheriffs of New Mexico regarding “being rogues” and stepping up for what’s right, “and not what’s necessarily being shoved at you.”
“I never even suspected I’d come close to winning,” he said.”
The sheriff said that his post will be good for the county and for the state.
“It’s going to give Wallowa County and the state of Oregon a massive leg up in voice in those conversations we have in regards to public land issues and Second Amendment issues.” Sheriffs in the group testify in Washington D.C. on occasion. Rogers said he hasn’t gotten a complete job description yet but he does know he’ll be in charge of the group’s elections.
Rogers’ tenure on the board is at least five years and possibly six. Although the Sergeant-at-Arms is the lowest post, serving on the board is not to be taken lightly and board membership has a learning curve, although members occasionally retire or are voted out. Members can rotate into other positions for that reason.
“I could wake up tomorrow and find myself president,” he said.
The group meets quarterly, but the sheriff said he won’t have to travel a lot as he can perform many of his duties via teleconferencing. He will attend a National Sheriff’s Association training conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I’ll pick and choose those things to go to that won’t hurt me or the county,” Rogers said.
Asked how the new position will affect his work and personal life, Rogers had a ready answer.
“I’ll be busier.”