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Linn County has a new sheriff in town: Undersheriff Michelle Duncan

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Michelle Duncan

Effective Jan. 1, 2022, Michelle Duncan will lead the Linn County Sheriff's Office while finishing the last year of outgoing Sheriff Jim Yon's term. Duncan will be the first woman in the role. (Photo courtesy of Linn County)

It’s official: Linn County will have its first female sheriff.

Starting Jan. 1, Michelle Duncan will fill in for the remainder of outgoing Sheriff Jim Yon’s term. The term runs through the end of 2022, but the election for his full-time replacement could be decided as soon as May.

Duncan is running against Deputy Jon Raymond, both of whom have been with the agency since the late 1990s. Duncan is currently the undersheriff, having risen through the ranks during her tenure.

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the commissioners selected Yon’s desired replacement in Duncan as the interim sheriff, continuing a trend of current sheriffs stepping down early from their term and making way for the undersheriff to be appointed.

This is exactly how Yon ended up in the job in 2018, when he was undersheriff and appointed to finish out Bruce Riley’s term.

Raymond, on the other hand, stated when he announced his candidacy back in September that he had never wanted leadership roles in the agency until now. He also said the tradition of making the undersheriff the de facto incumbent in the next election often has left voters without much choice at the ballot.

“I’m concerned with that … because the voters aren’t getting their choice to vote for sheriff,” Raymond said shortly after he announced his candidacy in September. “Those people progress that are better liked. We promote people and then, in the tradition of Linn County, the sheriff retires early and then hands it off to the undersheriff.”

Yon and commissioners said they believe Duncan is right for the role.

“You guys will not be disappointed. … She will continue the tradition of quality sheriffs we’ve had at the Sheriff’s Office.”

Commissioner Sherrie Sprenger shared an anecdote about the first time she met Duncan, which was during a neighborhood watch meeting in Crabtree. The community was reeling from a drug-related criminal case under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

The residents "wanted more action than what they were seeing, but there were things happening behind the scenes that were slowing that public response,” Sprenger said Tuesday morning. “In that meeting, it was a room full of angry, frustrated people — and rightfully so. They didn’t know what was going on. Michelle stepped in, … and I was very impressed with what she did. She did an exceptional job and really heard people.

“That is an extraordinarily important quality in a sheriff,” she added.

The commissioners on Tuesday also took a moment to again congratulate Yon for his work at the helm and thanking him for his service.

Yon wiped a couple tears from his eyes after the commissioners said their parting words.

The candidates for sheriff will both appear on the May 15 primary ballot. If either receives a majority of the vote, they move uncontested to the November election.

Troy Shinn covers healthcare, natural resources and Linn County government. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or troy.shinn@lee.net. He can be found on Twitter at @troydshinn. 

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