Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger will likely be appointed Mono County Sheriff by the county supervisors soon, after Sheriff Richard “Rick” Scholl recommended Obenberger for the post at Tuesday's county supervisor's meeting—with no oppostition from the supervisors, who were quick to voice their support for Obenberger.
Scholl recently announced he will retire about halfway through his four year term. His last date will be Dec. 20.
“It seems like the logical choice, and Ralph is certainly qualified,” said Supervisor Byng Hunt—words echoed by the rest of the supervisors.
The supervisors spent time acknowledging that appointing anyone to an elected position incurs some risks, but so would opening the job to applicants. A special election would be the other option, but the cost, and the fact that there are only two years left in Scholl’s term made the decision relatively easy.
They unanimously agreed.
The board faced a similar situation earlier this year, when District Attorney George Booth announced he would retire halfway through his four-year term. In that case, Booth recommended his deputy DA, Tim Kendall, to replace him and Kendall was unanimously appointed by the board to the post in early summer.
The supervisors also acknowledged that Obenberger has been in the middle of the recent spate of talks between the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the sheriff’s department over the possible repercussions to public safety after Mammoth’s police force is cut by seven officers due to the town restructuring in the wake of the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition lawsuit.
That means he is already up-to-date on the issues likely to face the town and county.
“This is likely to be a massive failure at the public safety level, in my opinion,” said Supervisor Duane “Hap” Hazard, referring to the cuts. “I think the town is going to need help and there are going to have to be some serious discussions about how that occurs. I’m willing to look any citizen in the eye and say Ralph is the right man for this job.”
Hazard, a former Mono County sheriff’s deputy, said it is probably inevitable that Mammoth’s police department was going to call on other law enforcement agencies for backup at some point, especially during busy weekends when the town’s numbers swell from about 7,000 permanent residents to 30,000 people.