Local government

Kesey steps in as new undersheriff for Malheur County

VALE – Dave Kesey isn’t new to law enforcement.

For the past 23 years he’s been a deputy, a sergeant and now is the new Malheur County undersheriff.

The switch from managing deputies as a sergeant to Johnson’s No. 2 will be a major task, he said.

“The sheriff and undersheriff are a lot more involved in the budget, the jail and community corrections. So, it will be a big challenge getting to learn how other parts of the sheriff’s office work,” said Kesey.

Kesey, 53, was appointed undersheriff April 5 and he is working to “get my feet wet.”

“I want to start learning how things are done and what my role will really be,” he said.

Born in Santa Cruz, California, and raised in Pleasant Hill out of Eugene, Kesey attended Oregon State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in forest recreation and resources with a minor in law enforcement.

He was looking for work when he learned Vale was searching for police officer. He joined the Vale Police Department in 1999. A year later he joined the sheriff’s office as a deputy.

Kesey said promotion to sergeant in 2010 was a milestone but the biggest change was his elevation to undersheriff.

“I am older than our current sheriff and typically you have an older sheriff and a younger undersheriff. I am kind of late in my career to be starting this,” he said.

Kesey said he and Johnson “make a good team and fit.”

“I think we think along some of the same lines,” he said.

Kesey said he always wanted to be involved in law enforcement but tried to balance that with his love of forestry.

“I thought I could be a game warden, combine forestry with law enforcement,” he said.

Kesey said now one major obstacle local law enforcement faces is the difference in the laws between Idaho and Oregon. For example, in Oregon a person caught with a small amount of illegal narcotics will not typically go to jail. In Idaho, jail is more a certainty.

“We just have lenient laws as far as controlled substances and what people can go to jail for and what they can be kept in jail for,” he said.

He said he’s noticed an increase in the number of Idaho residents who come to Malheur County to take advantage of Oregon’s weaker narcotics laws.

“There’s an increase in population of people who are aware that things they do in Idaho, they’d go to jail for and you come to Oregon and you don’t go to jail and it isn’t even a crime,” he said.

Kesey said the best part about the sheriff’s office are the people.

“I feel like we really have a good group of deputies,” he said.

He is motivated to help the public.

“For this job you do have to have some part of you that wants to try to help people,” he said.

Johnson said he is confident Kesey will do well as his second-in-command.

“He is very level-headed and composed,” said Johnson.  “He knows our processes and the people,” said Johnson.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]m

Previous coverage:

Johnson steps into Malheur County sheriff’s position

Wolfe announces he is retiring in April

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