Clifford takes over as Ada sheriff with strong support from staff, officials, community

After the Ada County commissioners voted 2-1 to appoint Matt Clifford as new Ada County sheriff on Friday, many officials, former sheriffs and community members expressed their support and made congratulatory remarks.

Clifford, Eagle’s police chief and a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Office, was the only one of the three finalists for the job with active Peace Officer Standards and Training certifications.

“I commend two of the three for seeing that that was the obvious choice and the most qualified person to be the next sheriff,” said Gary Raney, a former Ada County sheriff who now consults on liability issues for law enforcement.

Other than Clifford, the two candidates put forth by the Ada County Republican Central Committee were Mike Chilton and Doug Traubel. Chilton is a former patrol officer and jail deputy, and Traubel is a former sheriff’s deputy and investigator in the Ada prosecutor’s office.

Traubel was criticized on Wednesday after a number of statements he made were brought up during his public interview. He said Jews “were the villain class in the Soviet Union” because they “led the Bolshevik revolution.” He also struggled to back up a claim he made that “at least 50%” of rape allegations are false.

“I think there is a small group in the community who likes to hear the far right-wing rhetoric,” Raney said. “Generally people want a good sheriff who knows where their place is — to work with officials, work with county commissioners and do the right thing. It is not about having a personal agenda. That is what the extremism represents and I think the commissioners saw through that.”

Republican Commissioner Rod Beck and Democrat Kendra Kenyon voted in favor of Clifford. Republican Ryan Davidson did not.

The Idaho 97 Project, a political advocacy group that says its mission is to counter disinformation and political extremism, issued a statement applauding the two commissioners’ decision to appoint Clifford, but warned that Ada County “got way too close to having an anti-Semitic, misogynist person” as sheriff.

“We’re calling on the Ada County Republican committee — who sent Traubel as their No. 1 pick — to think about how poorly this reflects on them as citizens of Ada County,” said Mike Satz, the executive director of the Idaho 97 Project. “The values expressed by the committee’s first choice fall far from the values held by the vast majority of Ada County’s citizens and those of Idahoans broadly.”

Michael Tomlin, a Republican precinct committeeman for District 14, said that he was “disappointed” by some of Traubel’s past writings but that they were made in a different context from his candidacy for sheriff.

”It’s kind of a tough time in America,” Tomlin said, where people are expected “to be held accountable for everything you’ve said and done.”

In an email to commissioners on Friday, Nampa resident Tina DeBoer — Nampa is in Canyon County — asked the three-person body to “support and defend the Constitution by appointing the only Constitutionalist candidate for Sheriff in Doug Traubel.”

DeBoer has a business in Meridian and is a member of the Idaho Freedom Foundation board.

“Now, more than ever, Ada County demands a sheriff that will support and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties of every citizen of Ada County, while halting the establishment and unconstitutional overreach of government against the citizens of Idaho,” DeBoer wrote.

However, most emails that the commissioners received on Friday, according to records, indicated support for Clifford and worry about Traubel’s comments. Kenyon said all five mayors in Ada County and 59% of the public endorsed Clifford for the position. In an informal Idaho Statesman poll that was attached to a story about the candidates’ interviews, Clifford got 1,111 votes, Traubel only 76 and Chilton just 36.

Vaughn Killeen, a former Ada County sheriff, said in a phone interview that most Sheriff’s Office employees supported Clifford, who is taking over after the abrupt resignation on May 31 of Stephen Bartlett.

“The advantage that Clifford has is he has been there, he knows the agency, the players, and he knows the culture,” Killeen said. “The qualities that you need coming in are the qualities that he has — you have got to listen and surround yourself with good managers and leaders.”

Killeen said it is a good sign for Clifford that mayors throughout Ada County voiced support. In a statement on Friday, Meridian Mayor Robert Simison said he and Meridian Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea look forward to working closely with Clifford.

“I applaud the decision of Chairman Rod Beck and Commissioner Kendra Kenyon for selecting Lieutenant Matt Clifford as our next Ada County sheriff,” Simison said in the statement. “They made the right choice as Lieutenant Clifford not only has the knowledge, skills and abilities, but he has instilled trust and demonstrated leadership for the citizens through this process.”

Kuna Mayor Joe Stear said Clifford will serve the position well.

“As one of the three contract cities, we have had a great relationship with that office, and he will continue to nurture that as well as move in a positive direction. The people that live in Ada County are in good hands,” Stear said in an email.

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