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American Canyon police chief Oscar Ortiz, set to become Napa County sheriff Saturday, announces 2022 candidacy for post
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American Canyon police chief Oscar Ortiz, set to become Napa County sheriff Saturday, announces 2022 candidacy for post

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The longtime lawman set to become Napa County’s next sheriff this weekend has announced he will run in next year’s election to hold the post full time.

In a news release Monday morning, Capt. Oscar Ortiz, chief of American Canyon Police, declared his candidacy in the June 2022 sheriff’s race, where he will face former Undersheriff Jon Crawford. Ortiz is slated to fill Napa County’s top law enforcement position starting Saturday with the retirement of Sheriff John Robertson.

In a telephone interview Monday afternoon, Ortiz confirmed he has received a state Fair Political Practices Committee number for his election campaign and begun accepting donations for the race.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on May 18 appointed Ortiz, a 25-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, to fill the remaining 18 months in the term of Robertson, who submitted his resignation on April 27. Ortiz has led American Canyon Police, which operates under a contract with the Sheriff’s Office, since November 2017.

At the May meeting, Supervisor Ryan Gregory said he considered having the board interview both Ortiz and Crawford to succeed Robertson as sheriff but ultimately joined his colleagues in honoring Robertson’s recommendation of Ortiz as his successor.

Crawford, a 22-year Sheriff’s Office veteran who had held the department’s No. 2 position since 2018, announced his candidacy to succeed Robertson on May 14.

Oscar Ortiz

Oscar Ortiz

Oscar Ortiz

The Sheriff’s Office later announced Crawford was no longer serving with the agency effective May 30. Crawford described his departure as a termination and called the exit “purely political,” but declined to detail the reasons why. Sheriff’s spokesperson Henry Wofford also declined at the time to offer further details about Crawford’s departure.

Ortiz on Monday also steered clear of the topic of Crawford’s exit from the Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a personnel matter, and I and my campaign have no comment on the matter,” he said.

“I’m incredibly appreciative of the appointment and I am going to work hard to earn the vote,” said Ortiz. “I’m flattered that Sheriff Robertson trusted me with the keys to the car, so to speak. I understand it’s an appointment, and I need to earn the vote of the people, and I intend to earn that.”

As the new sheriff, Ortiz pledged to uphold neighborhood watches and other programs he said promote stronger ties between law enforcement and the community. He also promised to work toward Sheriff’s Office personnel “putting their best foot forward” in the light of heightened racial consciousness following the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a death that triggered a summer of anti-racism protests across the U.S., including in downtown Napa.

“A blemish on law enforcement 2,000 miles away, an incident that happens on the other side of the U.S., can have an impact locally in how people perceive law enforcement,” he said.

Born in Los Angeles County but raised in Yountville from the age of 4, Ortiz attended Vintage High School before joining Napa County Corrections at age 20. He served four years with the agency before entering the Sheriff’s Office in 1996, passing through the ranks of deputy, lieutenant, sergeant, and captain and later leading the department’s investigation unit.

The 50-year-old Ortiz, his wife Oralia, and the youngest of their three sons live in American Canyon. Another son is a U.S. Navy veteran and a third is attending Arizona State University, Ortiz said in his campaign announcement.

In addition, Ortiz has served as a volunteer boxing coach for 21 years in the Napa Sheriff’s Activities League after-school crime prevention program.

Sergeant Jeff Matlock reflects on 25 years with the Napa County Sheriff Office. Video courtesy of the Napa County Sheriff's Office.

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You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or hyune@napanews.com

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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