Eric Taylor (right) gets a hearty handshake from outgoing San Benito County Sheriff Darren Thompson June 25 in Hollister after Taylor was sworn in as the new sheriff. Photo: Tarmo Hannula
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A Watsonville native was sworn in as the 16th sheriff for San Benito County Friday under mild, sunny conditions in the front courtyard of the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Hollister.

Eric Taylor, a Class of 1992 Watsonville High graduate, accepted the position in the presence of his wife, Jaqueline—who he said “none of this would be possible without her”— their daughters and other family members, county and city dignitaries and a wealth of law, fire and county workers.

“This position is not about power and control,” Taylor said. “It’s about honor, service and protection. I promise you I will expect my deputies to treat this community with compassion, empathy and bravery.”

Taylor will complete the unexpired term of incumbent Darren Thompson, which expires in January 2023. Thompson announced his retirement from the sheriff’s office, and from his 33-year career in law enforcement, at the April 13 San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The supervisors unanimously appointed Taylor, who previously served as a captain with the office, as the new sheriff-coroner at the April 27 meeting.

Taylor, whose family stems back to the origins of Taylor’s Office City in downtown Watsonville to 1949, is a graduate of San Diego State University. After a brief stint with the San Diego Police cadet program, Taylor returned to Watsonville and was hired by Police Chief Terry Medina in 2000. Taylor worked his way up the ranks from officer to corporal, training officer, sergeant, and served on the Gang Task Force.

During his stint on the GTF, Taylor racked up more than 75 convictions.

“I was fortunate to have hired an officer like Eric,” Medina said. “Our department went on to send nine of our officers to the position of police chief or sheriff. That’s testimonial to the talent in that department.”

Indeed, outgoing San Benito Sheriff Thompson stemmed from WPD, just as former WPD Chief, Manny Solano, Marina Police Chief, Edmundo Rodriguez, and Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante, among others.

Thompson praised the Board of Supervisors for San Benito County for choosing Taylor.

“I recommended him and I’m glad they selected someone from our agency,” Thompson said.

—Photo: Tarmo Hannula
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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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