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Elected county officials begin terms
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County officials sworn into office Monday afternoon were: (left to right), County Supervisor Terry Withrow, Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall,county Assessor Don H. Gaekle, county Clerk-Recorder Donna Linder, Treasurer-Tax Collector Donna Riley and county Auditor-Controller Kashmir Gill (JEFF BENZIGER/The Journal).

A host of new county officials assumed office at a joint swearing-in ceremony held inside the crowded Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors chambers Monday afternoon.

Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves administered the oath of office.

The mantle of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department transferred from Adam Christianson to Jeff Dirkse during the ceremony for elected county officials. Christianson watched as Sandi Dirkse pinned the badge on the new sheriff.

“It is an honor to serve the county as the leading law enforcement official responsible for the safety of the county,” said Dirkse, who thanked supporters and his family. “It is a very honorable calling and thank you for the support.”

Dirkse was a lieutenant with the sheriff’s department, grew up in Turlock and lives in Denair with his family on a farm along the outskirts of Denair. He is a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger and National Guard commander who served for nearly a year in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He joined the sheriff’s department in 2007 as a patrol deputy and became Patterson’s chief in May 2015 as part of the county’s contract with that city to provide police services.

He thanked Christianson for leaving him with “an excellent department that is committed to serving this county.”

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Jeff Dirkse’s wife Sandi Dirkse pins the badge on the new sheriff during a joint swearing-in ceremony held Monday at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors chambers (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Christianson became sheriff in 2006. He started his career in law enforcement with the Ceres Police Department, before moving on to the Modesto Police Department and eventually the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department in 1996. His time in the sheriff's department included stints with the K9 unit, high-tech crimes detective, field training officer, and as a bailiff. As a sergeant he supervised the K9 unit and the satellite office of the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2004 and led the Homeland Security Division for the Sheriff’s Department.

Newly elected District 4 Stanislaus County Supervisor Tom Berryhill was unable to participate in his swearing-in. It was announced that Berryhill would be sworn in at a later event.

The standing room only ceremony marked the start of another four-year term for District 3 County Supervisor Terry Withrow. He defeated Modesto City Councilman Tony Madrigal by a narrow 129-vote margin in November.

Donna Riley became the Stanislaus County Treasurer-Tax Collector. She succeeds Lauren Klein who was appointed for the interim after the August 2017 resignation of Gordon Ford. Riley publicly praised and thanked her staff and said they will “do great things to serve the people of Stanislaus County.”

Donna Linder took an oath to succeed Lee Lundrigan as county Clerk-Recorder. Linder will oversee tens of thousands of public records such as business filings, records and real property documents, as well as ensuring local elections run smoothly by registering voters, accepting candidate nominations and conducting elections.  Linder was the Assistant Clerk Recorder under Lundrigan who ran unopposed in the June 2018 Primary Election.

Linder thanked supporters and staff for their encouragement.

“We’re going to work hard together and make this a great office and do great things for our citizens,” said Linder.

On Monday Scott Kuykendall succeeded Tom Changnon as Superintendent of County Schools. He defeated Shannon Sanford in November and Don Davis in the June primary. Kuykendall was hired by Changnon eight years ago as assistant superintendent. Kuykendall began his 23-year career in education as a Spanish and English teacher at Gustine High School, and after teaching for five years moved into administration. Since then, he has served as principal at Johansen High School and as the director of secondary education for Modesto City Schools. He also oversaw career technical education programs in the district, including FFA.

At SCOE, Kuykendall oversaw schools including the Stanislaus Military Academy, Valley Charter High School and Come Back Kids, and is also responsible for the culinary arts program in Oakdale, the SCOE Preventions Department, YES Co. and the county Student Attendance Review Board.

Kuykendall is a strong supporter of two-way immersion programs, which two of his sons have benefited from, as well as career technical education, skilled vocational training and academic innovation for students, like the early college program at Valley Charter High or online learning.

“It is a privilege and honor for me to be your next county superintendent of schools and I’m very excited,” said Kuykendall.

Birgit Fladager started a new four-year term as Stanislaus County District Attorney. She defeated John Mayne in November. Fladager said she was grateful, humble and honored to serve the community.

“It’s a wonderful job, said Fladager. “It’s a great opportunity. It matters deeply to keep the community safe and that’s really our focus. And again, I’m incredibly proud of my staff. They do wonderful work and I’m very grateful to the community and all those who supported me to be able to do this yet again.”

Don H. Gaekle remains as the county Assessor. He was unopposed in the June primary and thanked the voters for electing him again.

Also unopposed in the June primary was Kashmir Gill, who became the county Auditor-Controller.

Among those who were in attendance were former Sheriff Les Weidman, supervisors Dick Monteith, Vito Chiesa and Kristin Olsen and former state Senator Anthony Cannella who was just termed out of office.