Rick Roelle: Sheriff's lieutenant hopes to tame 'wild, wild west' of county politics
30-year department veteran aims to trade Town Council seat for county supervisor's chair
Throughout May, the Hesperia Star is profiling the seven candidates in the San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor's race.
San Bernardino County's 1st District needs a fresh start, according to primary race candidate Rick Roelle.
“The county has been like the wild, wild west. ... That’s the problem. A lot of special interests come in and throw a lot of money around,” Roelle said. “You won’t see one political insider on my staff.”
Should he win this time, Roelle says he’ll clean out the supervisor’s office of all remaining connections to the Bill Postmus era. (In 2011, the supervisor-turned-assessor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conspiracy to accept a bribe, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds, and former staff members have also been accused of crimes.)
Roelle has served on the Apple Valley Town Council since 2004.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in government,” he said.
The two-term councilman says his strong campaigning skills will serve him well in the race for the 1st District supervisor’s seat.
“Nobody on a city council has gotten more votes than me,” said Roelle, who’s squaring off against Hesperia mayor Russ Blewett. “I’ve never really lost an election.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s won every seat he’s sought: Roelle tried to make a move to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors once before.
When Postmus stepped down to run for the assessor’s seat in 2007, the remaining four supervisors filled the vacancy through appointment, choosing Postmus’ chief of staff Brad Mitzelfelt out of a field of candidates that included Roelle.
If elected, he would want to spend in a way perhaps unsurprising for a 30-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. (He now serves as a lieutenant in the corrections division.)
“I’m obviously big on public safety,” Roelle said. “The government’s main responsibility is public safety.”
Budget cuts in recent years have cut too deeply into the budgets of the sheriff’s department and courts, he said.
“That’s created a nightmare in the unincorporated areas” of the county. Crime has jumped by 30 percent in some unincorporated areas, Roelle said, while Apple Valley’s crime has only jumped 3 percent in the same period.
“We’re never going to see major investment unless we shake that” perception that San Bernardino County is a dangerous place to live on work, Roelle said.
And otherwise, the 1st District, which includes the High Desert, Yucaipa, Redlands and parts of San Bernardino, has a major advantage over the rest of the county, he said.
“The 1st District is the future of San Bernardino County,” Roelle said. “The valley down below is already grown.”
If elected, Roelle may be arriving just in time for a voter-driven pay cut for the Board of Supervisors, though it may not kick in until the next election cycle. Either way, Roelle said he doesn’t mind at all.
“They have a pretty lucrative deal right now,” he said. Currently, board members are paid $151,971 annually, not counting other benefits such as a $14,600 auto allowance. “I think $60,000 a year is a pretty good pay for something like that.”
He expects San Bernardino County to just be one of the first in a wave of such cuts across the Golden State.
“Once the county passes it — and it is going to pass —you’ll see a domino effect and other counties will do it,” he predicted.
And if that means the professional politician class in the county is replaced by part-time legislators, Roelle think voters will be better served.
“I’ve got the same amount of friends that I did before I (was elected),” he said. “I have my same core values.”
Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.