For the first time in at least two decades, it appears the Benton County Sheriff’s Office will be led by someone from outside the agency’s ranks.
The Benton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday to hire Jefri Van Arsdall to fill the unexpired term of retiring Sheriff Scott Jackson, who will step down on Feb. 1.
Van Arsdall’s hiring is contingent on passing a background check, which could take up to three weeks to complete. Benton County Undersheriff Greg Ridler will act in the capacity of sheriff from the time Jackson leaves office until Van Arsdall assumes the duties of the job, the county announced.
In choosing Van Arsdall, currently the second in command of the Baker County Sheriff’s Office in Eastern Oregon, the commissioners passed over Capt. Don Rogers, the other finalist for the position and the person who had Jackson’s personal recommendation to become his successor.
Jackson rose from jail commander to sheriff in 2013, when he was appointed to the position by the commissioners on the recommendation of his predecessor, Diana Simpson. Simpson held the position of undersheriff when she was elected sheriff in 2006 with the backing of outgoing Sheriff Jim Swinyard, who also held the undersheriff’s post before he became sheriff in 2001.
Van Arsdall comes to the sheriff’s job with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, Benton County said in a news release announcing his selection. After spending time as a reserve deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, he served with the Corvallis Police Department from 1997 to 2015, rising to the rank of patrol lieutenant. He joined the Baker County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 and became undersheriff the following year. He holds a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice from Portland State University.
While noting that both finalists were strong candidates for the position, Benton County Commissioner Xan Augerot said in the news release that Van Arsdall got the nod in part because of “the need to address racial justice and increase community engagement.”
Augerot offered some additional explanation in an interview with the newspaper.
“(Van Arsdall) is a very accessible and approachable person, and his philosophy, based on his experience in community policing, is that law enforcement is there to serve the community it’s in,” she told the newspaper.
Augerot acknowledged that going outside the department to choose the new sheriff is a break with tradition but added that Van Arsdall’s tenure with the Corvallis Police Department makes him a known quantity with many of the rank and file in the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
“He actually worked with many of the personnel in our Sheriff’s Office, so he already had relationships with some of them,” she said. “That said, yes, there will be challenges, and opportunities as well.”
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Van Arsdall said he’s looking forward to his new job.
“I’m excited and feel incredibly privileged to have the honor to come back to Benton County and serve. It’s a good office with good people,” he said.
While acknowledging he has "a lot to learn" in the new position, Van Arsdall added he thought the relationships he forged with other law enforcement officers during his years in Corvallis would serve him well as he settles in at the Sheriff's Office.
"I don't expect any issues, and I'm hoping for a smooth transition," he said.
Van Arsdall will start his new position at a salary of $126,970 a year, the same pay rate Jackson is currently earning.
The sheriff's job will come up for election in 2022.