Bill Smethers: Nevada County’s accidental sheriff?

The site was Rincon Del Rio in the south county. Assembled was the law-and-order contingent of the local Republican establishment, gathered together for the evening to boost the candidacy of Lt. Bill Smethers for sheriff.

Since everybody present was going to vote for him, there was no need to do any selling. Rather, it was an occasion for Smethers to thank his supporters, ask them to put a sign on their property and encourage others to vote for him, and generally enjoy an evening of bonding and fellowship.

Lt. Bill Smethers

But Smethers was new to this campaign stuff, so he proceeded to launch into a presentation of his goals if elected sheriff. I’m told he forgot No. 5–maximize funding to keep deputies on the street–and had to refer to his notes.

This is another example of the less than sure-footed effort that has characterized his campaign since he announced his candidacy in September of 2017–the last of three candidates to enter the race.

Smethers conceded he was getting ready to retire until Sheriff Keith Royal and others talked him into running for the position Royal is giving up. “I have been pushed multiple times by them to run,” he said. “I decided to run.”

Does that sound like somebody who has a burning desire to do the job? Does that sound like somebody who will stay around to apply his expertise to local crime fighting if he loses?

Royal declined to endorse Smethers at that time even though his wife signed-on to run Smethers’ campaign. Huh?  Was Royal going to endorse any of the other two candidates at that time, given his wife’s commitment to Smethers?

Of course not. He eventually give Smethers his support, something that isn’t being played up in campaign advertising.

One more thing: Smethers’ candidacy was announce on a Friday, the worst news day of week if you want to get strong, positive coverage. As any P.R. professional will tell you, Friday is the day for releasing BAD news because people spend less time on Saturday following the news than any other day of the week.

Capt. Shannan Moon

But despite these missteps, Smethers is still a strong contender for the office. He finished second in a three-person primary race in June and faces sheriff’s Captain Shannan Moon in the November 6 general election.

Both have strong ties to the community. Smethers is getting his endorsements from law enforcement and other first responders, while elected officials are leaning toward Moon.

Smethers is viewed as the tougher law-and-order candidate, particularly when it comes to everybody’s favorite subject, marijuana. He was a key player in the dog-and-pony show Royal staged for the Board of Supervisors that led to the emergency ban on growing pot and placing the ill-fated Measure W on the ballot. Smethers even represented the pro-W side in a debate staged by the League of Women Voters.

Moon comes from a law enforcement background–her father was a deputy sheriff–and she has run all of the major operations in the sheriff’s office during her nearly 3o-year career. She was the office’s first female sergeant, lieutenant and captain, and now wants to become the county’s first female sheriff in 167 years.

While both candidates are touting their long careers and experience in the sheriff’s office, each carries some baggage. Drugs were allegedly smuggled into the jail that led to the death of a prisoner on Moon’s watch, and Smethers was running the narco unit when a poorly trained and supervised deputy was allowed to create significant headaches for local prosecutors.

No real polling is done around here so it’s hard to know who has the best shot at winning. Moon finished first in the primary so you have assume she has the lead. The third candidate in that race, retired Grass Valley police chief John Foster, hasn’t endorsed either candidates, so it’s hard to know who his supporters will vote for. Moon is considered to be more aligned with Foster’s approach to police work, for what that’s worth.

Whoever wins will be the new sheriff in town for the first time in 20 years.

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4 Responses to Bill Smethers: Nevada County’s accidental sheriff?

  1. Barry Pruett says:

    George, I am guessing that Shannan will win by about six points. She has broad support across multiple constituencies and a ton of experience. We were so happy to vote for her as well!

    • I’m in no position to challenge your prediction. I thought she’d be eliminated in the primary!

    • Barry Pruett says:

      It is a total wild guess around here George. I have a ton of very conservative friends in Penn Valley, Smartsville, and Rough and Ready, and they are all voting for Shannan. The only people that I know are voting for Smethers are Republican party insiders. It just seems to me that Shannan has a broader appeal. It’s definitely not a knock on Smethers. I have never met him…I just really like Shannan and her family.

  2. Judith Lowry says:

    I have an idea, let’s do this Maidu style. Have the candidates run a foot race. The winner becomes the sheriff.

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