MADERA COUNTY – Jay Varney, 53, has been the Chief of Police for the City of Chowchilla since 2004, and hopes to become the next Sheriff of Madera County.
Varney has over 30 years of law enforcement experience, including over 18 years in leadership positions at the sergeant, lieutenant, and chief of police levels.
In his current position, Varney oversees 28 employees, including 17 officers in the Chowchilla Police Department. He also served as City Administrator from 2009 to 2011.
“Throughout my career, I have been a results oriented, problem solving team builder,” says Varney, who announced his candidacy for Sheriff in October 2013. “I believe my combined experience, attitude, and training are what our county needs to make Madera County the safest county in California.“
Varney earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Michigan State University, then went on to serve on the police departments in Dallas, TX, and Lansing, MI. He recently completed his Master’s Degree in Criminology at Fresno State University.
Varney says that continuing his education throughout his career is important.
“I feel that in the world we live in now, the more education you have, combined with the more common sense you have, the better you are,” he says.
During his tenure as Chief of Police of Chowchilla, Varney earned his Executive Certificate from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
He recently graduated from the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA, where he earned a graduate certificate in Criminal Justice Education from the University of Virginia. He credits the 10-week session with sparking his interest in running for Madera County Sheriff.
“One of the benefits of the FBI Academy was we had a complete mix, from sergeants to chiefs and sheriffs, folk from overseas, and high level federal agencies other than the FBI,” he says. “There were 18 of us from California, and I spent time talking with the sheriff of Siskyou County about the pros and cons of running an agency in a rural area. I knew it was something that would fit my skill set.”
An officer has to be recommended by their superiors to attend the Academy, and it is generally several years in the planning.
“Agencies want to send their very best, their most qualified, and once you make it through, you really want to represent your agency well and apply yourself completely,” says Varney, who took on the “blue brick” challenge of swimming 34 miles while at the Academy, the distance from Quantico to Washington, D.C. Varney was a bit of an over-achiever, logging 107 miles.
When asked what he sees as the biggest challenges for the Sheriff’s Office, Varney says number one is concerns over response time.
“Every call is important to the victim,” he says, noting that providing the highest level of service possible is a top priority.
Another issue high on the list is the problem of cartel-related marijuana grows on public and private land, putting citizens in danger and contaminating water and resources.
The problem of homelessness is also on his radar, as he addressed the issue of the Oakhurst Community Park.
“Before these folks became homeless, they had some connection to the mountain community,” he says. “You don’t want to empower them to stay in the rut they’re in. Some could get out and be productive members of society. Love and consequences; you need a good combination of both. Every one of those people who doesn’t get back into the law enforcement system allows me to concentrate on more serious problems.”
Finally, Varney says getting the community to feel connected to the sheriff’s department is vital to providing the best service and protection.
“I’ve found that if you treat people right, things go better for you. Treat them bad, they will always be against you. Convince them through your actions and your words that you’re doing the right thing, and they will support you. It’s all about building trust.“
Varney says that philosophy applies not only to the person at the top, but notes the importance of ensuring that deputies in the field also have the training and support to deal effectively and professionally with the public.
“The farther down the chain you can push good decision making, the better it is for everybody.”
Jay and his wife Amy have been married for nearly 29 years, something he says is rare in the law enforcement community.
“I don’t bring my work home with me,” says Varney. “Managing your home life – relationships, families and marriage – is crucial to being able to do your best on the job.”
For more information on Chief Jay Varney and his run for Madera County Sheriff, visit http://www.jayvarney4sheriff.com/
Jay Varney is currently serving as a Director-at-Large for the California Peace Officers Association, is a member of the California Police Chiefs Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Tactical Officers Association, and a member of the NRA.
Visit our Local Politics page for more spotlights on the candidates in this June’s election.