CORVALLIS, Ore. — To serve and to protect–that mission has been Sheriff Diana Simpson’s life work. And after more than three decades with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, she’s hanging up her badge.
“I think you get to a point as a leader, and sometimes you have to move on and let someone else step in and come up with new fresh ideas and perspectives,” Simpson said.
She moved to Oregon from Boise, Idaho. Her dreams of joining the force were rocky at first.
“I applied for a job as a jail release counselor in Yamhill County. I checked back a couple times and was finally told I couldn’t have the job because I was a woman,” she said.
But in 2006 she made history, becoming the first female ever elected as sheriff in Oregon. Her interest in criminal justice first began in high school.
“I grew up watching some TV shows that really inspired me as far as the whole police work,” Simpson said.
Eager to serve, she started in corrections as a parole probation officer where she spent most of her career and quickly moved up the ranks. In 2006, she won her first election and became sheriff. But again, it wasn’t a smooth start. An operating levy on the ballot failed, so she had to cut back 24/7 patrol.
But as with any challenge, she overcame it. Just a short year later, she restored around-the-clock patrol coverage and began rebuilding the reputation of the sheriff’s office.
“When I first became sheriff, we had citizen complaints averaging about 40 formal complaints a year. We’re down to seven or less a year,” she said.
One thing she wishes to see after she is gone is a new jail. Although Simpson is retiring, her service to the community isn’t over yet. She’s a member of Corvallis Morning Rotary, Corvallis Zonta and Leadership Corvallis Advisory Board.
As she enters retirement, there’s another challenge.
“The biggest challenge that I’m going to have with retirement is I’m going to miss everybody at the sheriff’s office,” she said.
Sheriff Simpson’s last day will be on June 30.
The Board of Commissioners will begin the process of naming her successor in the next few months.