Jim Yon has always been surrounded by teachers and cops.
His father taught in several Albany schools and his mother taught in Jefferson.
When he started dating his future wife, Angie Stevenson, in high school, his extended family grew to include former Linn County Sheriff Dave Burright and Burright's brother, John, a state trooper; and his brother-in-law Frank Stevenson, now the Lebanon police chief.
And if he needs any tips on how to run the jail portion of his job, he can call on his older brother Scott, a sergeant with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was funny back then because John would try to recruit me for the Oregon State Police right in front of Dave,” Yon said.
Friday morning, Yon was sworn in as the interim Linn County sheriff, succeeding Bruce Riley. In November, unless someone launches a successful write-in campaign, he will officially become the sheriff for the next four years.
The job culminates more than 25 years in law enforcement.
“I knew early on this is what I wanted to do,” Yon said. “I was a reserve deputy in Monmouth and my practicum my senior year was with Linn County. I knew this was where I wanted to be and I haven’t regretted it. It just felt right from the first day.”
Yon started as a resident deputy in Harrisburg and south Linn County in 1993. He moved to the Albany office in 1996, becoming a detective in the child sex crimes area in 1999, and was promoted to corporal in the traffic division in 2000.
He was promoted to 1st sergeant in 2005 and in 2009 moved into narcotics 1st sergeant. In 2011 he became captain of the support division and in 2014, when Bruce Riley was appointed to fill the final year of retiring Sheriff Tim Mueller’s term and then was elected sheriff, Yon was named undersheriff.
“Our careers have dovetailed,” Yon said of himself and Riley. “The first couple weeks on the job, we worked a DUII and ended up in court facing one of the best DUII attorneys in the area. We prevailed, but we learned a lot.”
Yon has since followed Riley through the ranks and says he appreciates that he's been heavily involved in administrative decisions during Riley’s tenure, meaning he doesn’t anticipate major changes in operations in the near future.
“Bruce is one of the most even, level-headed guys I know,” Yon said. “I will talk for an hour to avoid a fight, but when it’s done, it’s time to move forward. I would say the biggest difference between us is that I’m more direct than he is.”
Yon said his leadership style is hiring good people, giving them the proper training and equipment to do their jobs and getting out of their way.
“I want them to know that I have their back when things get bad,” Yon said. “I also think it’s important to talk to people. I try to get around the area every day and talk to as many people on duty as possible, even if it’s to just say hello.”
Yon said he’s prepared for the new job challenge, in part because “I have always been goal-oriented. I believe in becoming prepared and ready for the right time to lead.”
Yon said his philosophy is that success isn’t about him, it’s about “taking care of the people who take care of me.”
He added that he has the ability to “be the calm one in the middle of a storm. The more intense something is, the more I try to be a calming influence.”
In addition, Yon said, "I really like the people I work with," and that makes his job much easier.
It also helps that Linn County residents support law enforcement, both philosophically and by passing a levy every four years. Voters overwhelmingly supported another four-year levy on the May primary ballot, by a margin of 70 to 30 percent.
“The public is our boss,” Yon said. “We know they want to talk to a human, 24/7, 365 days a year, and they want a jail bed to put away folks who do bad things. I don’t believe in the state’s efforts to increase downward sentencing. We will continue to work with the District Attorney’s Office to send bad people to prison.”
Yon said the Sheriff’s Office and jail are facing some major maintenance costs. The Board of Commissioners recently approved a roofing contract for more than $800,000.
“Next year we will have to replace the doors in the jail,” Yon said. “The electronic system that opens and closes them is outdated. We will also update the jail’s camera system.”
Yon estimates the total cost will be about $1.2 million.
And like his predecessor, Yon said it’s important to him that the Sheriff’s Office and Jail are always freshly painted and smell and look good.
“I think that’s what the citizens of Linn County want and expect,” Yon said.
Outgoing Sheriff Riley said Yon understands the philosophy and culture of customer service as the bedrock of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
“He is my choice of successor because he’s the right person to run this agency,” Riley said. “He’s been with us since the start of his career and has worn several hats being promoted through the ranks.”
Riley said Yon “understands who our true bosses are and they are the citizens of Linn Country, combined with integrity and quality character. He has all the characteristics of a good sheriff and he has my 100 percent support. He won’t need it, but if he needs anything, I’ll be there to help him.”