Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin will not seek re-election in 2020.
Bergin, 60, has spent 33 years in law enforcement. He was first elected sheriff in 2004 and is serving his fourth four-year term.
“I’ve decided. I’ve told everybody I won’t be running for a fifth term,” Bergin said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to step back and take a breath for yourself, which is not in my DNA.”
This year has been particularly challenging on the sheriff’s health. Bergin was diagnosed with kidney cancer about four months ago. He underwent surgery in August to remove half of a kidney.
Bergin took 1 1/2 weeks off after the surgery but is beginning to return to his normal routine, he said. The cancer has a high survivability rate, and he will likely be monitored by doctors for another year.
Bergin said the cancer was not the primary factor in his decision to not run again, but it did give him “a whole new outlook on life.”
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Bergin said. “I’ve had to walk a little slower, but I’ll be good to go in another week or so.”
Bergin started as a reserve officer with the Seaside police in 1985 before he was hired full time about a year later. He became a sheriff’s deputy in 1992.
Bergin started the office’s first K-9 unit and became a sergeant in 1996. During his patrol years, he was heavily involved in narcotics enforcement, spending some time working undercover. He became Sheriff John Raichl’s chief deputy in 2003.
“Tom was very active in different departments. I think that really, really helped him,” Raichl said. “It has to be a good balance, and that’s a plus as an administrator.”
In his time as sheriff, the office has undergone extensive modernization. The office used to be located in cramped quarters below the Clatsop County Jail. It relocated to a newer, larger facility in Warrenton in 2016.
“During the time Tom’s been sheriff, I think the sheriff’s office has been highly functional and highly responsive to the needs of citizens,” County Manager Cameron Moore said. “We obviously expect that, but we know that comes from the sheriff’s leadership.”
Bergin is known for being outspoken about his conservative beliefs. The sheriff opposed Measure 88 in 2014, which — if it passed — would have allowed undocumented immigrants to acquire driver’s cards.
This year, Bergin has actively supported Measure 105, a November ballot measure that would repeal Oregon’s sanctuary law. He wrote a letter last week — with 15 other sheriffs from around the state — outlining his reasons for backing the measure and participating in immigration enforcement.
“Although Tom and I disagree fundamentally on a lot of political matters, I’ve found him to be a good man and a good sheriff,” District Attorney Josh Marquis said.
After the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, when many county roads became impassable, Bergin advocated heavily for legislation allowing hazardous trees to be removed from state highways. Despite pushback from groups hoping to preserve the trees, a bill was passed in 2012 allowing for the clearances.
During the storm, Bergin helped with field operations, including pulling people out of flooded areas.
“Tom has always been out there in person,” Marquis said. “In some ways, he’s like an old-fashioned sheriff.”
In addition to daily tasks, Bergin has a big item on his agenda over the next several weeks. The sheriff will be the leading voice in support of a November bond measure to relocate the county jail from Astoria to the site of the former North Coast Youth Correctional Facility in Warrenton at a $20 million price tag. The county has attempted to expand the jail in two previous bond measures, including one with Bergin as sheriff in 2012.
After the election and beyond, Bergin plans to continue serving full time as the county’s top cop until his term expires in two years.
“It’s just something that’s important to me,” Bergin said. “You’re all stuck with me for a while longer.”