Candidates for Nevada County sheriff exchange jokes instead of barbs |

Candidates for Nevada County sheriff exchange jokes instead of barbs

The crowd was standing-room-only during the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County Sheriff’s candidates forum in the Board of Supervisors room in the Rood Center in Nevada City.
Photo by John Hart

Asked about what differentiates them from their opponents in the Nevada County sheriff’s race — what made them special — John Foster was first to answer.

“Just look at me,” the former Grass Valley police chief quipped.

The laughter hadn’t completely died before sheriff’s Capt. Shannan Moon interjected: “I’d like a rebuttal.”

The back-and-forth between Foster, Moon and sheriff’s Executive Lt. Bill Smethers moved smoothly at a Thursday forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County. The candidates, all of whom have decades of law enforcement experience, have attended several political forums together. They joked Thursday when answering a question about the best qualities of their opponents.

“They’re both fantastic people and I’d love to mentor them and train them to be the next sheriff,” Foster said of once he’s in office.

Smethers countered by pointing to Foster’s long service in law enforcement, saying it’s time for the lawman to consider retirement.

“I am ready to step into the position as sheriff,” Smethers said at one point.

Moon told a standing-room only crowd at the Eric Rood Administration Center that people should research the three candidates. All of them would bring different traits to the job.


The candidates agreed on plenty. All said that county code enforcement should be responsible for enforcing the new cannabis ordinance. They had varying levels of concern about a bill, submitted in the wake of the Stephon Clark shooting, that would change the state’s “reasonable force” standard to one of “necessary force.”

They also disagreed on some issues. Asked about removing marijuana from the Schedule I drug list, Foster and Moon supported the move. Smethers opposed it.

Moon said no research can occur on cannabis because it’s on the Schedule I list, noting California decided over 20 years ago that it had medicinal value.

“It’s about time we did some research,” Moon said.

Foster said voters have told their government the laws should change.

Smethers pointed to his 10 years of service as a narcotics officer. He said people regularly told him marijuana was a gateway drug. Additionally, the amount of THC — what gets people high — in cannabis is significantly greater than it was decades ago.

The candidates split along similar lines on body cameras for deputies.

“As your sheriff, we will have body-worn cameras,” Foster said.

Moon said behavior improves when people know they’re on camera. She called the cameras a safety issue and also supports having them.

Smethers called the cameras a valuable tool — noting he’s not opposed to them — though he listed their potential problems. The cost could reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, the videos would be public records that require personnel to excise protected portions of them, taking more staff time.

Asked who they’d select as their undersheriff, Smethers said he’d pick sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Pettitt.

“He believes in my vision for the Sheriff’s Office and the community,” Smethers said.

Moon said she’s made no decision on who will serve as her undersheriff. The search for her second-in-command will occur both in and outside of the community.

Foster said he’ll have two undersheriffs — Scott Berry, a former Truckee police chief; and Michael Gomez, former bureau chief of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.


All three candidates cite their experience in law enforcement as a reason to vote for them.

Foster said he has 27 years in leadership positions and 35 years total in law enforcement. He served as Grass Valley’s police chief for almost 18 years.

“I’m your best qualified candidate,” Foster said.

Smethers said over the years he’s managed all divisions within the Sheriff’s Office, arguing he’s earned the respect of the deputies. He added that the Sheriff’s Office has several responsibilities, including court security, animal control and coroner duties.

“You can count on me to step in and keep this community safe,” he said.

Moon said she’s running for office because of her love for Nevada County. Like her opponents, she pointed to her years of law enforcement service. She can listen and collaborate as a leader.

“There’s a reason I made captain,” Moon said.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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