After graduating from high school he moved to Bend, Oregon and attended college. He originally wanted to be a school teacher, so he was taking courses to further that goal. Becoming a school teacher was a bit of a conflict for him, since as he says, “Law enforcement was a way of life for my family. I’m not sure I ever really wanted to do anything else.” He then took a criminal justice class taught by Les Stiles, who later became Sheriff of Deschutes County. Brad said, “Once I started the criminal justice classes, I was hooked!”
While in college and working for UPS, he became a reserve police officer for the City of Sisters and also for Deschutes County Sheriff ‘s Office. In 1993, he was hired and became a full-time resident deputy sheriff for Klickitat County, Washington. In 1996, Brad returned home to Sherman County and went to work for the Sherman County Sheriff ’s Office.
Brad married his high school sweetheart, Donna, and they have been married for 25 years. Together they have two children, Bethany (age 20) and Gavenn (age 16). As a family, they enjoy trips in their recreational vehicle. After graduating, Gavenn would like to go into the military to serve his country. He talks about following in his dad’s footsteps to become a police officer but has made no firm decisions at this point. Bethany is attending college in The Dalles.
When asked about his decision to run for election as sheriff, Brad said, “I liked the lifestyle of a sheriff. I watched my dad every day, and that is just what I wanted to do. The sheriff ’s office phone and radio were in our home. I can remember sitting around watching television and someone would talk on the radio. Then the family would listen to the radio until we knew my father or deputy were okay and then we would go back to doing what we were doing. We had a red rotary dial phone on the wall above the police radio. Today that would be called a 911 center. When my parents were not home, us kids would answer the phone and then dispatch my dad or his only deputy to where they needed to go.”
“I truly love the community that I live in, and I wanted to be the “go to” person when people are in need,” Brad said. With overwhelming support from the citizens of the county, he was elected to his first term as Sherman County Sheriff in November 2000 and took office January 2001. “My father was elected Sheriff of Sherman County in 1969 and held the position until 1995. Between my father and I, we have a combined 42 years of serving Sherman County as their elected sheriff.”
Following the Election
At the time he was first elected, Sheriff Lohrey was the youngest sheriff in the state at only 30 years old and he had a lot to learn. He said most critical was, “knowing when to speak and when to just shut up, doing the right thing instead of the popular thing, and truly understanding what it means and requires to be a sheriff.”
The sheriff is the top law enforcement official in the county, and those are big shoes to fill when you’re only 30 years old! Fortunately, he had a great support system. His father had just retired after 25 years as sheriff and was a wealth of information. Brad said, “I also had sheriffs like Art Martinak, Raul Ramirez, and Stephen Oliver, whom I looked up to and helped refine my principles as a newly elected sheriff. I couldn’t have survived without the help of the many great men and women involved in the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association. I also had 35 other sheriffs from around the state that I could count on. At the time, all the sheriffs seemed very old to me but not so much anymore! My wife and my entire family, and every employee of the Sheriff ’s Office have always been there for me. I have been able to count on them 100% of the time since the day I was elected.”
Issues Facing Sherman County
Sheriff Lohrey says a big issue facing Sherman County today is the declining population. The population is getting older, and it is getting more difficult to find volunteers to support the ambulance and fire departments. There is a lack of family wage jobs and housing in Sherman County. Businesses have a tough time surviving because of the limited population, and therefore the resources such as grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and places for family entertainment close the doors.
The biggest issue facing the Sheriff ’s Office today, however, is drug trafficking. Sherman County has Highway 97 and I-84. Highway 97 is a spoke leading to various drug distribution hubs. Hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs have been seized by the Sheriff ’s Office on these thoroughfares.
The sheriff ’s office considers itself a part of the extended family of Sherman County. Four out of the seven Sheriff ’s Office employees were born and raised in Sherman County. Sheriff Lohrey’s Administrative Assistant, Julie McAllister replaced her mother Shirlee McAllister, who worked for the Sheriff ’s Office for 31 years. “We all volunteer and do things as community members. Sherman County is best described as one community. We have five small cities, but when you ask a local where they are from, they say Sherman County,” said Sheriff Lohrey.
Proudest Moment as Sheriff
When asked about his proudest moment, Sheriff Lohrey replied, “I cannot single out one moment that has made me the proudest. I have been proud since the day I was elected. I have been able to witness my deputies become incredible investigators and leaders and give back to the community in ways most people would only dream of doing. I know that my office is an intricate part of the county. People come to the Sheriff ’s Office not just for law enforcement problems but because they know we are there for them and will help. This is the type of trust and enormous support my office receives from the community.”
The biggest thing he has seen change in law enforcement is the technology. “I was working for Klickitat County Sheriff ’s Office when Lieutenant Elmer Kinder brought a computer into the office and announced ‘this will change the way we do our jobs.’ Now everything is done by computer. The way our communications systems work has come a long way from answering the sheriff ’s phone in our house to having a 911 system with 12 call takers. The training has become more standardized, thorough and professional.”
Sheriff Lohrey said the Sheriff ’s Office has worked closely with the county government to improve the technology and equipment. He has been proud to be involved from inception through development, and into operation of a four county 911 system and the fourcounty regional jail (NORCOR) since opening. Currently, development and planning are underway for a new criminal justice annex for Sherman County.
Biggest Challenge for the Office of Sheriff
Sheriff Lohrey said that the absolute number one issue facing law enforcement today is mental health and treating the mentally ill instead of putting them in jail just because there is nowhere else for them to go.
“Mental health is not only a county problem but a state problem. In Eastern Oregon, we have a lack of bed space for the people who are in need of help. When someone is having a mental crisis, we take them to the emergency room at the local hospital in The Dalles instead of taking them to an appropriate mental health facility. This needs to be easier to access for the person who is having the crisis,” he said.
In closing we asked Sheriff Lohrey if there was one thing he could change, what would that be. “I would turn back the hands of time because I want to do this job forever.”