Tom Cavallero appointed Sheriff by Merced County Board of Supervisors

MERCED, Calif.

Tom Cavallero has served as Merced County's Undersheriff for the past four years and has worked for this department for nearly 3 decades. Now he's suddenly taking over the top spot, but he only plans to keep it for a year.

Cavallero says he never expected to be sheriff, but that changed last week when Sheriff Mark Pazin accepted a position as chief of the law enforcement branch of the governor's Office of Emergency Services. "It's really amazing we ended up here. I did not anticipate the Sheriff announcing he took that job when he did so I was as shocked as anyone," said Cavallero.

Cavallero became a full-time Merced County deputy in 1984 and worked his way up to undersheriff in 2009. Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved his appointment as sheriff-coroner.

Cavallero will finish out the current term, which ends in January of 2015. But Chairwoman Deidre Kelsey suggested he run for the office next year. "I know I , for one, I would support you."

Cavallero said he's honored, but has no plans to seek election. "That's never been my intention throughout my career that has not appealed to me. The year I have will go by quickly, and I have some concerns about people already being distracted by elections."

Cavallero wants the next 12 months to be meaningful and plans to work on some key issues, including inadequate jail facilities. The department recently learned it was not chosen for $40 million in state funding to build a new correctional center. "The command staff is already working on possibly appealing those decisions that had to do with the money," said Cavallero.

Pazin believes Cavallero will excel in the role, but warns the job is much more demanding than many people may realize. "Whoever succeeds in this Sheriff's race for 2014, the only advice I can give them is be careful what you wish for."

The primary election for Merced County Sheriff will take place in June, and the general election is scheduled for November. Action News has learned at least two candidates are planning to run for Merced County Sheriff.

Patrick Lunney will make his formal announcement on Thursday. He is currently the chief investigator for the Merced County District Attorney's Office, and has also served as Merced Police Chief.

Frank Swiggart is also planning to run for the position. He is currently a sergeant with the Merced County Sheriff's Office, and has worked for the department full-time for 18 years.

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