Frank Gauthier’s background in law enforcement, the military and the private sector has provided him with experience he says is very unusual in politics, and uniquely qualifies him to be Sheriff of Madera County.
Frank is an Air Force brat who was born in Germany in 1966, and raised in Madera County, where his father Milt was with the Sheriff’s Office for 35 years.
After graduating from Yosemite High School in 1984, he joined the United States Air Force, where he served as a Boeing B-52 Crew Chief during the Cold War. Upon his honorable discharge in 1988 he returned to Madera County.
In December 1988, Gauthier graduated from the State Center Peace Officer’s Academy in Fresno, and after serving as a Madera County Superior Court Bailiff, he was assigned to the Chowchilla Substation in 1990. He served many years on the S.W.A.T and Dive Rescue Teams, and in 1996, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
In 2000, Gauthier was granted a leave of absence to participate in rebuilding the public safety infrastructure in Kosovo after the Balkan War. After returning from this mission in 2002, under the leadership of Sheriff John Anderson, Frank helped his administration regionalize the S.W.A.T. team to include the Chowchilla and Madera Police Departments.
In 2004 he resigned his 14 year position with the Sheriff’s Office and accepted a position to work with the United States Government protecting Americans working overseas. Over the next nine years as a Team Member, Team Leader, Detail Leader and ultimately Project Manager, he worked his way up through the ranks of multimillion dollar corporate projects. He currently manages two large facilities while supervising nearly 400 employees in some of the most dangerous regions of the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
From the day Frank left Madera County, he says his ultimate goal was to bring every bit of knowledge and experience he could gain by working overseas back to the sheriff’s department, his community, friends and family. Now, the opportunity to do just that has presented itself in running for Madera County Sheriff.
Frank is definitely a home-grown boy, having lived in North Fork, Sky Ranch, Ahwahnee, Madera, Chowchilla and currently Yosemite Lakes Park. This gives him a unique understanding of the cultural and community nuances of each of these areas, he says, and provides a foundation for his vision of returning to a centuries-old model of community policing.
“The police are supposed to be of the community; not just to protect and serve, or work for, but the cops are supposed to be community members, not people that just drive through,” he says.
Not planning on waiting for an upturn in the economy so he can hire more deputies, Gauthier has very specific plans for how to do more with less. That would start with building a network in each community, led by one Resident Deputy who knows the citizens.
“You have a deputy who lives in, say, Yosemite Lakes Park. That’s his community, and the residents can identify with a particular officer so the Sheriff’s Office is not a ‘department,’ it’s ‘Joe Smith,’ and they know him. And they know he works directly for Frank, so they only have to go one guy higher if he’s not taking care of business.”
Gauthier says each Resident Deputy would control, cultivate, train and monitor three Reserve Deputies. Each one of those Reserves then supports three Citizens On Patrol, and each COP is responsible for three Neighborhood Watch.
“This can be done with training and equipment provided by not spending money on more and more deputies. I calculate that for about the cost of two deputies – paying one deputy and using the funds saved by not hiring the other one to train and support volunteers – that’s 40 people in a community, and each person only has to worry about three others. You can see how quickly that turns into a formidable number.”
You need to identify good people and put them in place, says Gauthier, then trust them to manage their jobs.
“What’s exciting about it is you don’t need to carry a gun to be a volunteer, you don’t need to ride with officers, you don’t need you to confront anybody. We’ll develop community policing over the years; if you fix your little trouble spots – broken windows in abandoned buildings, yards that have grown up – then you don’t attract vagrancy and other small crimes which then begin to attract larger crimes.”
He cites the “broken windows theory,” which puts forward the notion that if a building has a few broken windows and none are repaired, vandals will likely break a few more and then eventually even break into the building, perhaps use it as a drug house or light fires inside. When volunteers address the smaller issues, that may head off the larger ones, and those are simple ways for citizens to participate in the policing of their own neighborhoods.
“These are foundational principles for 200 years that somehow we’ve just gotten away from, and it’s not that hard to go back to.”
So how does a sheriff inspire his officers to embrace this new, yet very old law enforcement model?
Gauthier says his plan is to accomplish this through incentive programs for the officers who are willing to get involved in this type of policing and build up the standard of community involvement.
“I know how happy people are when they feel very valuable,” he says. “What I have to do is convince them to not ask for more, but to do what, in my business, we call making yourself a ‘prime vendor.’ You can charge more because you provide more. If deputies want higher pay, they need to show that they’re willing to work more than other deputies. And we can do it; it’s just business.”
When asked about the perception that the public doesn’t trust law enforcement, Gauthier disagrees with that notion.
“It’s not that people don’t trust the Sheriff’s Office, rather, they don’t trust the guy driving by in that police car, because they don’t know him,” he says. “I want the car to intimidate the bad guys. I want the good guys to know who the guy in the car is, and I want them to have his phone number.”
To learn more about Frank Gauthier, his background, training and experience, visit www.g4sheriff.com.
Frank has three children and two grandchildren, and has been married to wife Dusty for 18 years.
To learn more about candidates running for office in Madera County, click here.