Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, left, promoted Lt. Michael Thomas to the position of undersheriff.
Sheriff Mike Downey announced his choice for undersheriff on Monday, Jan. 24, promoting Lt. Michael Thomas to the position.
Thomas, 57, has worked for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for 32 years and is a lifelong resident of the county. Thomas started as a deputy in 1979 under former Sheriff Gene Cox and has been a lieutenant in command of the Criminal Investigations Division, the Operations Division and the Court/Civil Division. He also served as a sergeant for patrol, on the Marijuana Eradication Team and as the out-station commander. He has been a SWAT team leader, rangemaster and is a lifetime member of the California Narcotic Officers Association. Thomas has a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University, an associate’s degree from College of the Redwoods and Peace Officer Standards and Training certificates for Management and executive development. He is also a graduate of the POST Sermon Block Supervisory Leadership Institute. Thomas has worked with Downey most of his career, and Thomas said they have a working relationship that allows them to communicate well. As undersheriff, Thomas is second in command at the sheriff’s office and has the authority to make decisions when the sheriff is absent.
"For the most part, we work together," Thomas said of working with Downey. "He’s number one; I’m number two."
Thomas will be coordinating with Downey to tackle the day-to-day issues and the long-term concerns of the sheriff’s office, the biggest of which is the budget "fallout from the state," Thomas said. With a questionable budget and potentially more responsibilities falling to local jails and police forces from the state, "we’ll be fortunate to keep what we have," he said.
The top priorities for the department that Thomas said he will work with Downey to achieve are to provide a proper level of service to residents, to keep up morale among staff and keep the organization fiscally solvent.
Downey said he chose Thomas over two other candidates -- all of them were qualified. He needed someone that he could have "complete trust in and I know shares my vision," and Downey said Thomas was the best fit.
Downey was undersheriff before winning the June election for sheriff last year. He said the undersheriff responsibilities mirror the sheriff’s, but the sheriff is still the final point of authority.