It’s not poor health, and it’s not a looming scandal, Sheriff Doug Gillespie told me Wednesday.
Those are always the first things that speculators speculate when a politician unexpectedly decides against running again.
Just ask former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, who announced in 1999 he was through with politics. Fourteen years later, no scandal broke, and he’s in good health, despite the speculation.
The same rush to judgment began when Gillespie issued a brief statement Monday saying he wouldn’t run for a third term. “Without the obligation that comes from campaigning and fundraising, I can focus on completing some of my major objectives like the More Cops initiative and putting more officers out on the streets. There is nothing more important to me and nothing I am more committed to seeing though,” the statement said.
Gillespie, 55, knew he had to make his final decision in August because after Labor Day, the rush is on to start raising money for a 2014 election.
He and his wife talked over whether 34 years of police work is enough or 39 years is better.”The decision came down to this: Was I willing to commit to another four years?” He wasn’t.
“It’s not about my health, I’m in good shape. In the fall I had an angio done, but I’m fine; that’s not the reason. But in truth, this is a 365-day, seven-day a week, 24 hour-a-day job. Could I commit for four more years? I could not convince myself it was in the best interest for me or the organization. Last night the phone rings at 10 p.m. with an officer-involved shooting. I’m down at the scene until 12:30 or 1 in the morning, and this morning I’m in the office early and the phone is ringing.”
Sheriffs are always on call. “This is a big job, and you don’t get a chance to turn it off. An eight-year commitment is enough,” Gillespie said.
To quote his predecessor, Sheriff Bill Young, Gillespie wants his life back.
Young served one term and said in May 2006 he wouldn’t run again because he loved the job but hated the politics. (He was the first to push for the More Cops sales tax increase.) When he stepped down, he got a job with Station Casinos. When he announced he wasn’t going for a second term, he said, “I know there’s more to life than just politics. And I want that. I want my life back.”
Young’s predecessor Jerry Keller served two terms before announcing in October 2001 he wouldn’t run again, partly because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He spent his last 14 months working on terrorism issues. After leaving, he took a job heading security with Encore
Gillespie said, “Eight years ago, I didn’t make the decision based on whether I could win. I decided on whether I wanted the job.”
I speculated that if the More Cops doesn’t win five votes from the Clark County commissioners, Gillespie might not want to be the sheriff who has to lay off police officers and watch the crime rate go up, but he said that wasn’t it.
Did the Monday-morning quarterbacking by his critics play a role? No, that wasn’t it either.
Did Review-Journal stories hammering him for use-of-force policies and officer-involved-shootings contribute to his decision? Nope.
The sheriff is no stranger to taking grief from all comers. Recently, two county commissioners, Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani, told newswoman Dana Gentry they thought former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody might be a good candidate for sheriff, and that’s when Gillespie was still a declared candidate. Talk about a slap in the sheriff’s face. But Gillespie remained calm.
“I don’t want people to read more into it than that which it truly is,” he said.
When Young said he wouldn’t run, he said one reason was because he felt comfortable leaving the police force in then-Undersheriff Gillespie’s hands. I made it a point to interview Gillespie and came away after a 90-minute interview with the impression that he is a decent person, a cautious person who loved his job, a man who doesn’t live beyond his means and someone who would not be seduced by the power of the sheriff’s job.
I feel the same today about Doug Gillespie as I did then. Except now he doesn’t love the all-sheriff-all-the-time nature of the job.
If he doesn’t want the job any longer, I can understand that as well.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.