New Sheriff’s Commander in Town

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

June 6, 2024

Morro Bay High and Cal Poly graduate, Chad Nicholson has been named the new SLO County Undersheriff, replacing the retiring Jim Voge. Submitted photo

There’s a new undersheriff in town, and he’s a SLO County man, born and raised.

County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced the promotion of Cmdr. Chad Nicholson to undersheriff, the No. 2 spot in the department.

Nicholson is replacing former undersheriff, Jim Voge, who plans to retire soon.

“Undersheriff Voge,” said Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Grace Norris, “who has been a pivotal figure in the Sheriff’s Office, will be greatly missed by his colleagues and the community.”

U.S. Voge was just the third undersheriff in the 12-year tenure of Sheriff Parkinson. The others were Martin Basti and Tim Olivas (Olivas is retired and lives in Los Osos; Basti retired too and has since died).

“All my undersheriffs,” Sheriff Parkinson said, “have done an amazing job. Undersheriffs Basti and Olivas both did outstanding work for me and the Sheriff’s Office. Undersheriff Voge holds a special place with me because he was the first person I hired after I assumed office. He started the Professional Standards Unit and implemented many policies and procedures that have benefited all of us. He has mentored many people along the way, and he will be missed by many, including me.”

While undersheriff, Voge led several initiatives including “the modernization of our Professional Standards Unit, enhancing accountability and efficiency within the department. His efforts in policy development and mentorship have left a lasting legacy that continues to benefit our deputies and the community,” Norris’ news release said.

The new guy continues the Morro Bay connection with the Sheriff’s Department. Retired Undersheriff Olivas and Sheriff Parkinson both started out in law enforcement with the Morro Bay Police Department. And while the Sheriff moved up to the SLO P.D. Olivas joined the State Fish & Game Department. He returned to policing when he was hired by former MBPD Chief John DeRohan to be the commander in Morro Bay. He promoted to police chief when DeRohan retired and then jumped ship to the Sheriff’s Department to join Parkinson, retiring out of the County system.

Even the late Marty Basti has an Estero Bay connection, as he served as the commander at the Los Osos Sheriff’s Substation for many years before promoting to undersheriff.

Nicholson’s roots on the North Coast goes back generations. Cmdr. Nicholson “is a sixth-generation resident of San Luis Obispo County, with his family first settling in the area in the late 1800s near San Simeon. He is a graduate of Morro Bay High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly State University,” Norris said.

He attended the Alan Hancock Law Enforcement Academy in 2011 and was class valedictorian, according to Norris. He was hired right out of the academy by SLO County.

Nicholson has worked as a patrol deputy at all of the substations in the county — Templeton, Oceano and Los Osos. He has also done bailiff duty in Superior Court.

He’s steadily climbed the ladder in the department; first to Senior Deputy, where he was a field training officer training rookie deputies on patrol. In 2015, he was assigned to the Detective Division as a “Major Crimes Detective.”

Two years later, Nicholson was promoted to sergeant and became a patrol watch commander and patrol supervisor. Sheriff Parkinson then selected Nicholson to supervise the Major Crimes and Special Victims Units within the Detective Division. 

As a detective sergeant, Norris said Nicholson supervised the Kristin Smart murder case through the arrest, trial and conviction of Paul Flores in a case few people thought would ever be resolved, as Smart disappeared in 1996.

In 2021, Nicholson was promoted to commander and assigned to the Professional Standards Unit (internal affairs), “where he conducted all administrative investigations for the Sheriff’s Office and oversaw the department’s training program for both patrol and custody personnel.”

In his last promotion (in 2023), Nicholson was sent back to the Detective Division, “this time as the division commander,” Norris said, “where he oversaw all investigative units within the division. These units include the Major Crimes Unit, Special Victims Unit, Gang Task Force, Narcotics Unit, Coroners Unit, Cannabis Compliance Team, Crime Lab, and Cyber Lab.

Nicholson has done a lot for the department including helping find funding for needed equipment. “One notable achievement,” Norris said, “was proactively seeking federal grant funding to purchase body-worn cameras for all patrol personnel. Nicholson strongly believed in the need for body-worn cameras to aid in transparency, best evidence, and criminal prosecution.”

Off duty, Nicholson is active in the community. He is president of the Sheriff’s Rodeo, Norris said, and was instrumental in developing the rodeo. “His leadership and vision have helped create an event that fosters positive relationships between law enforcement and the public.”

Sheriff Parkinson had a tough decision to make when picking Voge’s replacement. “I decided that I wanted my next undersheriff to have a long runway and be around for a long time,” Sheriff Parkinson said. “I focused on a replacement that would add stability.”

Cmdr. Nicholson, who starts the new job in August, said he was honored to be picked for undersheriff. “I am honored,” he said, “and excited to take on the role of undersheriff. I look forward to continuing the great work of Undersheriff Voge, who has been a huge mentor in my law enforcement career. 

“I look forward to furthering our commitment to professionalism, transparency, community engagement, and excellence in law enforcement. I would like to thank Sheriff Parkinson for the opportunity to serve as his undersheriff. He is an outstanding leader and truly cares about his staff and all constituents of this great county.”

The Sheriff is happy with the decision. “Commander Nicholson will be a great addition to the executive team,” he said. “Please join me in welcoming the new undersheriff this summer. We are confident that his leadership will strengthen our department and enhance our service to the community.”

First elected sheriff in 2010 (taking office in 2011), Sheriff Parkinson is in the middle of his fourth term and would be up for re-election in 2026. In 2022, his latest election, he ran unopposed. 

Since 1987, when former Pismo Beach Police Chief, Ed Williams was first elected sheriff, there have been but three men who share the position — Williams (from 1987-98), and Pat Hedges (1998-2010) came before Parkinson’s tenure.

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