Terry Rowan moved to Oregon from Shawnee, Oklahoma in February of 1989 to live near his father, Larry. Terry’s father was in public safety and Terry found the profession interesting. He applied with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office and started his public safety career in March of 1989 as an on-call control room/dispatch operator. Not long after he started, he transferred to jail operations as a full-time corrections officer. Sheriff Jim Carey was in office at the time and Terry’s dad Larry was working in the jail as a corrections officer. Terry also met and later married his wife Tamara, who also worked at the Sheriff’s Office. Terry’s stepmother, Gini, worked for the Umatilla County Juvenile Detention Center in Pendleton, so making public safety a career was a family affair.
In 1990, Terry and Tamara had their first baby girl, Jessica, and they have been very proud parents ever since. Terry also transferred to the Criminal Division and began doing prisoner transports and investigations. Terry found that he has a natural ability to get people to trust and open up to him. It was at this point he knew he wanted to be an investigator. The same year, Terry’s dad was promoted to jail commander, while Tamara went to work in the District Attorney’s office. In 1991 Terry was transferred to the west end of Umatilla County and began work as a patrol deputy. As he traveled through his career he has enjoyed every step of the way, always saying, “I can’t see myself doing anything else,” and, “this is the greatest job ever.”
In 1992, Terry and Tamara were blessed with their second baby girl, Megan. She is known in the family as the fiery red head. Terry has always been a wonderful father and he cherishes his daughters. He has been a very involved father who supports the min whatever interests them. He was not only there to watch but he took on the extra duties of coaching Little League, soccer, basketball, and leading their 4-H group. Over the next several years he enjoyed patrolling the west end of Umatilla County. During this time he saw a number of tragedies on the job, but also enjoyed a number of great successes. He became known for his calm demeanor and level headed interview style as well as a keen ability to obtain confessions from serious offenders.
In 1994 Sheriff Jim Carey unexpectedly left office due to medical issues. Terry’s dad, Larry, was appointed as sheriff. Larry Rowan was in office as sheriff from 1994 to1995. A special election was held to fulfill Sheriff Carey’s remaining term. Gordon Campbell was elected and served two years. John Trumbo was elected and served as sheriff from 1997 to 2012.
In November of 1995 Terry left the Sheriff’s Office and went to work with the Hermiston Police Department under Chief Andy Anderson. Terry enjoyed working with Andy and would spend a lot of time gleaning administrative and leadership skills from him. Terry became a criminal law detective in 1996 and again said, “I can’t see myself doing anything else, this is the greatest job ever.” Terry continued to be recognized by his peers, supervisors, and public safety partners as a go-to investigator. His peers at the police department looked up to Terry as a leader and he took on several leadership roles within the organization.
Terry was a member of the major crimes team and as a team, he and other members solved a number of high profile cases and homicides. He really enjoyed working with the team, particularly Mike Wilson and Jim VanAtta, both detectives with the Oregon State Police. In 1999Terry worked one of the biggest cases in his career, a double murder near the west campus of BMCC in Hermiston. With the aid of the team and with Terry as the lead investigator, after many long days and nights they were able to bring this case to a close and charge two young men with the murders. Terry said, “I felt that through good investigations and great partnerships and teamwork, we were able to solve almost every major crime that came our way. This was how we made a positive difference in so many people’s lives.”
Terry has always wanted to make a difference in this profession. Recently he was approached by a man he recognized. This person was deeply embedded in a life of crime for most of Terry’s career, but on this particular day Terry saw him as a loving husband and father and successful businessman. The man told Terry that he attributed his new, crime-free life and amazing family to the efforts Terry invested in him. The man thanked Terry for changing his life.
In 2005 Terry left the Hermiston Police Department and returned to the Sheriff’s Office after Sheriff Trumbo offered him the second-in-command position. As the undersheriff, Terry was able to implement some new programs to increase service delivery. In 2012, after Sheriff Trumbo announced his retirement, he ran for sheriff and was elected. He took office on January7, 2013.
Once Terry was in office he began making significant changes that he believed were needed to move the agency forward. He felt that the most important thing was to build a strong foundation, instill a team concept, build relationships and most of all, improve professionalism agency-wide. He had a vision of where the Sheriff’s Office could go and a plan for all the things that needed to be done to make his vision a reality. In his first of several agency meetings he passed on his vision to his staff. He told them they were needed, appreciated and included in this process of change. Terry said, “Just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t make it right or wrong, but it would no longer be an excuse to stand in the way of progress.” He challenged the staff to think outside the box, to address weaknesses, celebrate successes and to implement new, innovative programs.
In just three short years Terry has made sweeping changes that have improved the services provided by the Sheriff’s Office, such as:
Jail – increased inmate population: Terry knew there were frustrations regarding the release of inmates from the jail under a system called “matrix releases.” Matrix is a point value score assigned to each inmate based on their criminal charges and history; those inmates with the lowest score were released. Under this system, many times offenders were released before police officers finished their paperwork. The Umatilla County Jail was built and began housing inmates in 1999. The holding capacity is252 beds but the daily average population was capped at only 135 inmates per day. There were times where the jail capacity was dropped to just 100 inmates. When the inmate population got to the cap, the policy was to release inmates per the matrix system.
Terry was frustrated with the release of these inmates. When he took office, he made policy changes designed to hold offenders accountable. In April 2013 Terry removed the jail cap and began holding offenders for as long as legally possible. The jail population increased by about45% and has been averaging about 190inmates per day over the past few years. The “matrix releases” have dropped to nothing. Offenders are being held and are actually able to get in front of a judge to face their charges. Terry said, “This has been a great program, where we are holding probably50 more inmates on a daily basis without adding additional staff.”
The entire criminal justice system works better under this new program. Officers are able to jail the arrested individual(s), the District Attorney is able to complete the official charging document(s), and the inmate is seen by the courts. This program has substantially reduced the number of failure-to-appear warrants issued by the courts.
There is still work to be done here, as Terry puts it. With the increase in inmate population comes an increase in drug and alcohol-dependent inmates, as well as those suffering from mental illnesses. Implementing new programs to address this increasing concern is paramount. Terry has been working with community partners to address these concerns. He feels if we can get to the root of the problems, we can possibly divert drug- and alcohol-dependent people and the mentally ill away from jail, and hopefully keep them from returning. The programs that we currently offer in our jail are evidence-based and have had a positive impact on re-offending inmates.
Patrols – increase in patrol services: Prior to Terry taking office, the Sheriff’s Office experienced significant delays in responding to crime reports. Terry focused on enhancing relationships and collaborating with community partners and elected officials to solve this problem. When he took office there were seven patrol deputies providing service to over 3,231 square miles. One of the patrol deputies was also used as an evidence officer, further reducing the number of deputies responding to reported crimes.
Sheriff Rowan has made great strides over his short time in office and has improved those patrol numbers significantly. Today, there are eleven patrol deputies, a full-time evidence technician, three detectives, two patrol sergeants, and a patrol captain. All are responsible for responding to criminal complaints, and response times have improved dramatically. Terry said, “I get comments all the time from citizens around the county indicating they see our patrol units more than they ever have in the past.” His vision for the agency is to have staffing levels that would provide for 24/7/365patrol coverage in all areas of the county.
Patrol vehicle rotation plan: Terry worked with the Board of Commissioners to address the aging vehicle fleet. There were patrol vehicles with over 150,000 miles on them that would break down on the way to emergency calls. The Sheriff’s Office began a process of replacing the aging fleet with reliable patrol units and equipment. Under a new vehicle replacement plan the Sheriff’s Office is able to purchase several vehicles each year. After three years of use as emergency response vehicles, they are transferred to other county departments. This plan has worked well. It has provided the Sheriff’s Office with reliable patrol vehicles and has enhanced the overall quality of the county’s motor pool.
New uniforms, new look, new attitude: Terry started a process of upgrading and changing uniforms for the agency. In the past, the Corrections Division wore a different color and style of uniform than the rest of the agency and other divisions had old, mismatched uniforms. To enhance the team concept and increase professionalism, Terry’s plan was to put all divisions of the office in the same uniform. Terry said, “It only makes sense to have all your teammates in the same uniform.” With input from the entire team, new uniforms were selected and a new shoulder patch was designed by the staff. Also, new vehicle decals were designed and added to the new vehicles. The staff and the public love the new look of the Sheriff’s Office.
Development of policies, mission statement, core values, and desired character traits: Terry believed in setting a strong foundation on which to build the Sheriff’s Office. New policies and procedures were written. A mission statement, core values and desirable character traits were developed and implemented. All of these have created a more professional environment and a higher level of accountability.
Collaboration and consolidation: Terry always felt that by collaborating with other agencies he could provide a more efficient delivery of service. He has worked with the cities of Weston and Athena to provided contracted police services. He has worked with the City of Hermiston and has consolidated dispatch services for the city police, fire, and emergency services. This was a huge undertaking because his plan consisted of moving the dispatch center into a larger room, once occupied by an emergency operations center under the CSEPP plan. It involved the purchase of new dispatch furnishings, including state-of-the-art workstations, new9-1-1 answering and recording systems, new radios, new computers, and a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)/Records Management System. The dispatch center currently provides service to 25 police, fire and EMS agencies in Umatilla County. The center handles just over 150,000 calls per year, including about 30,000 9-1-1 calls.
Sheriff Rowan also restructured and moved the Civil Division from an office in the downtown courthouse to the headquarters of the Sheriff’s Office. This has improved overall efficiencies in the division’s operations. Concealed weapons permits are issued within days rather than months. Court documents have been streamlined and are ready for service in a timelier manner.
Terry said, “I have an unbelievable group of volunteers who provide both the missions, of search and rescue operations as well as reserve deputies who aid in augmenting our Patrol Division. Without these folks stepping up and committing themselves to these two programs, I don’t know where we would be.”
The Search and Rescue volunteers provide over 1,000 hours annually to missions, training, and meetings. They have been there in the worst of times, but have also been front and center on a number of success stories.
The reserve deputies have provided over 4,000 hours of patrol services, training, and security details annually. Terry said, “I owe a huge amount of gratitude to these two volunteer groups. With their dedication to service, we are able to provide our citizens services that would be otherwise difficult to provide with the limited resources we have. I thank them for their service!”
For an overview of their operations and a full list of achievements, and to seethe 2015 Progress Report please visit the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office website at www.co.umatilla.or.us/sheriff/or visit them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Umatilla-County-Sheriffs-Office-153173158107341/.
“I have to say that I have some of the brightest command staff in the business. They have provided me with assistance and have supported the missions and goals we have set forth. For everything I have accomplished, I know I could not have done all the wonderful things without hem, said Sheriff Rowan. “Undersheriff Jim Littlefield, Captains Dave Williamson, Kathy Lieuallen, Stewart Harp and Lieutenant Sterrin Holcomb, supervisors and staff, I thank all of you for the dedication and professionalism each of you has displayed!”
Outside of the office, Terry enjoys the great outdoors. He likes to hunt, fish, kayak, and play golf. He also enjoys spending time with his family and by the printing of this article, he will be enjoying the company of his new, and first, grandson. His daughter Jessica is married to Mikel Britt and they will be welcoming into the world little “baby boy Britt” in March. Jessica works for the Hermiston School District as a human resource specialist, while Mikel is a lineman for Umatilla Electric. Megan currently works for Simply Devine and has a bright future ahead of her.
Terry said, “I have had a number of blessings in my personal and professional life; personally, I can’t wait to be a grandfather. I have an amazing family and my wife Tamara who has been there through it all. Without her, I could not door accomplish the things I have!”
“Professionally, of the most notable was being nominated by my staff and supported by my peers as the 2015 OSSA Commander of the Year; this was a tremendous honor that I am very humbled by.”