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[whitespace] Sheriff Captain Wilson says he'll retire if not given undersheriff job

Saratoga--A lot is resting on a decision Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is planning on making in the near future: Capt. Robert Wilson's career.

Wilson, in charge of the Westside Substation in Saratoga, has been working from the downtown San Jose office since February, and is serving as both "acting assistant sheriff" and as the captain of the substation, Spokesman John Hirokawa said.

While Wilson has been filling in downtown, he's also been contemplating retirement--something he said he plans to do by the end of the year if Smith doesn't choose him as her new undersheriff.

In his newly titled capacities, Wilson is taking over Assistant Sheriff Ruben Diaz's job while Diaz is out on administrative leave. Diaz was Smith's opponent in last November's election. Wilson said he's in charge of personnel and training, internal affairs and investigations.

In the meantime, Wilson has two secretaries juggling his schedule and Lt. Cary Colla at the Westside Substation has taken over many of Wilson's day-to-day activities in that office.

However, Wilson could soon have his own permanent office downtown if Smith chooses him to be undersheriff as part of her planned reorganization of the Sheriff's office.

Hirokawa said Smith will make the undersheriff announcement sometime in May, and that despite ongoing rumors, the position has been promised to no one. Calls to Smith on the matter were referred to Hirokawa.

Wilson acknowledges that his future at the Westside Substation is unclear and that changes could come with Smith's decision.

This May, Wilson celebrates his 31st anniversary with the department and said he's planning on retiring by the end of the year if he is not chosen as undersheriff.

He added that if he is selected as undersheriff, he "may in fact take the position."

Either way, the Westside Substation will be losing its well-known captain.

"If I were to leave, the city managers of the contract cities would be on the panel that selects my replacement," Wilson said.

The Westside Substation serves the cities of Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, and unincorporated areas of the county. His replacement could come from any of the remaining five captains in the department or possibly even from a lieutenant who is promoted to captain, Wilson said.

The last round of promotions in the Sheriff's department came in January. Wilson said, however, that more promotions could be on the way, signaling more movement in the administrative ranks of the department.

The department is currently set up with three assistant sheriffs. One spot was vacated when Smith was elected Sheriff last November. Capt. Steve Cushing is currently covering Smith's old territory, while at the same time heading up the South County office and headquarters patrol. Wilson is covering Diaz's territory while primary election opponent and Assistant Sheriff Tom Sing continues in his current position.

Last October Smith explained that the assistant sheriff position is a coded and classified position and that a certain procedure must be followed to eliminate those positions.

She also noted that the assistant sheriff and captains have identical contracts, which means the position cannot be eliminated as if it were an appointed position.

"The first of her restructuring has to be approved by the [county] Board of Supervisors and the county council," Hirokawa said. No word yet of when that will happen.
Michelle Alaimo

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