Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor to retire after 19 years

There’s going to be a new sheriff in town.

After 19 years, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor is retiring as top cop in the state’s second largest county.

Pastor, 70, is the longest serving sheriff in the county’s history.

He was permanently appointed to the post in 2001 and was elected to the post in 2008 when Pierce County went back to a system of electing its sheriffs. He ran unopposed in his last two terms.

“I’ve been here a long time. People have gotten somewhat used to me being sheriff,” Pastor said Friday. “It is time for people to say, ‘Who is the next sheriff?,’ and start planning for that.”

Pastor’s term ends in December 2020. He expects to depart in January or February.

The County Council will appoint someone to lead the Sheriff’s Department for the remainder of the term.

Pastor said he’s happy to discuss replacement options with the council but does not plan to endorse anyone.

Those interested in running for sheriff will have to file by May.

Pastor said he might do some traveling with his wife but plans to remain on several state and national law enforcement boards and committees after he retires.

“I’m going to take a deep breath,” he said with a smile. “I’m not done being involved in law enforcement.”

When asked about the things he’s most proud of during his tenure, Pastor pointed to the nearly 800 people who work for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. (There are 329 law enforcement officers, 305 corrections officers and 145 civilian personnel).

He talked about their ethics, dedication to providing top-notch protection to the community and dedication to keep going through the toughest times and lack of resources.

“We have people who are well motivated, and people with tremendous hearts and tremendous smarts,” Pastor said. “That’s how we get by. Part of the sadness of leaving is leaving people like that.”

The sheriff told his command staff he was leaving during a routine Thursday meeting before sending out a department-wide email.

Mike Blair, chief of staff, said the news came as a shock even though it was well known Pastor would be retiring by the end of next year.

“It really feels final now,” Blair said. “He’s been the sheriff for 19 of my 25 years here and all I really know as a leader. We’re lucky to work for him.”

Command staff praised Pastor’s honesty, his willingness to speak his mind, his subtle style of leadership and his one-lined quips known to pop up during the hardest times.

Fondly referred to as the smartest sheriff in all of America, Pastor gained a reputation for his eloquent speeches and big words.

He holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Yale University and can speak knowledgeably on everything from historical battles to literary greats.

Ed Troyer, the sheriff’s spokesman who has worked alongside Pastor for 19 plus years, said his boss’ humor is what he’ll miss most, but it is Pastor’s experience, intellect and leadership that will live on.

“He has represented our department really well across the country, and he’s done a really good job of producing leaders,” Troyer said.

Stacia Glenn covers crime and breaking news in Pierce County. She started with The News Tribune in 2010. Before that, she spent six years writing about crime in Southern California for another newspaper.