Michael Johnson Sworn in as Shasta County Sheriff

Judge Jody Burgess administers the oath of office to Sheriff Michael Johnson. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Promising a full-scale crackdown on illegal marijuana grows and a new era of unity, former Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson was sworn in Friday as Shasta County’s 23rd sheriff. Shasta County Superior Court Judge Jody Burgess administered the oath in a Board of Supervisors Chambers packed with friends, family, law enforcement officers and government representatives from Redding, Anderson and Shasta Lake.

Judge Burgess congratulates Johnson as his wife, Rosemary, looks on. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Acting Sheriff Jason Barnhart presented Johnson with his badge and Johnson’s wife, Rosemary, pinned it to Johnson’s uniform.

Rosemary Johnson pins the sheriff’s badge on her husband’s jacket. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Johnson said family will remain his top priority as images began to populate a projection screen behind the podium. The new sheriff choked up briefly when talking about the support he’s received from his wife and he chuckled as he thanked the 20 or so “wild Portuguese” relatives who turned out for Friday’s ceremony.

Turning to the task at hand, Johnson noted, “We’ve got some huge problems to tackle.” An overcrowded jail and illegal marijuana grows tied to criminal cartels are atop the list of challenges, he said.

Expanding on his themes of unity, cooperation and communication, Johnson said he plans to enlist all enforcement agencies, from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Shasta County Probation to the Forest Service, to form a multi-agency force to drive out illegal marijuana growers.

“I’m happy people are mad about marijuana grows,” Johnson said to a round of applause.

Sheriff Johnson said he’ll make illegal marijuana grows a priority. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Johnson, who will earn $205,000 a year, said he isn’t “beholden to anybody” and will let law enforcement principles guide his decision-making and operation of the Sheriff’s Department.

Johnson credited the “three wise men” for influencing his career. He started with retired Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham, “who taught me how to be a real cop.” Next up was retired Amador County Sheriff Martin Ryan, “who taught me how to be an executive,” and retired Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope was credited with showing Johnson how to effectively serve all elements of the community.

Johnson drew another hearty round of applause when he reiterated his support of the Second Amendment and said he had no plans to scale back the number of concealed carry weapon (CCW) permits issued in Shasta County, provided applicants can legally possess weapons and complete the certification process.

Earlier in the ceremony, Anderson City Manager Jeff Kisler, who worked with Johnson since he was named Anderson’s chief in 2012, credited Johnson’s leadership skills and professionalism. “It’s hard to express how proud we are of Chief Johnson,” said Kisler, adding that Johnson “is the right person to be sheriff of Shasta County.”

Others, however, have questioned the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ 4-1 vote to appoint Johnson to the vacancy created when Sheriff Eric Magrini resigned to accept a new position as Shasta County’s assistant chief executive officer.

Supervisor Patrick Jones, who cast the dissenting vote, said the board should have held off on the appointment and instead wait for the June 2022 election to allow the public a voice in the decision.

Supervisors Les Baugh and Mary Rickert countered that a mid-term appointment was urgent to help the Sheriff’s Department get a head start on the illegal pot farm problem.

Retired Sheriff’s Sgt. John Greene, who interviewed for the sheriff post when Magrini was appointed, questioned why supervisors did not repeat the interview process before offering Johnson the position.

Both Greene and Johnson have said they will seek election next June.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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