Candidate for TF County Sheriff

Candidate Cliff Katona stands for a portrait outside his home on Jan. 21, 2016 in Twin Falls.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS

SHOSHONE — After three years away from law enforcement, former Idaho State Police detective and Twin Falls County sheriff’s candidate Cliff Katona will be publicly sworn in Tuesday as the new Shoshone police chief.

Katona was officially sworn in and took over the department last month, but the Shoshone mayor will hold a public ceremony at the City Council meeting Tuesday. The department has had two interim chiefs since Marshall Emerson resigned last August to take over a Nevada police department.

“I’m committed to making this one of the best small agencies in Idaho,” Katona said Friday. “After working for a larger agency, I’m able to bring a lot of experience here. The morale here is so high … we have younger officers, and I’m looking forward to mentoring them … I think I have a lot to offer.”

Katona, 56, began his law enforcement career with the Pocatello Police Department where he worked seven years before transferring to ISP, where he was a trooper for three years and a detective for 19.

In early 2015, Katona had retired from ISP and set his sights on becoming Twin Falls County sheriff. He announced his candidacy more than a year before the Republican primary and campaigned relentlessly to unseat incumbent Tom Carter.

The challenger ultimately fell short of his goal — Carter secured 59 percent of the vote with Katona winning 40 percent.

After retiring from ISP but before his sheriff’s campaign, he worked security at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center; after the campaign, he became director of security at the Crisis Center of South Central Idaho. And all the while, he continued to stay involved in the community organizations he frequently met with during the campaign.

It was the security job with the Crisis Center that ultimately led him to Shoshone. When two officers from the department brought a patient to the center, they mentioned Shoshone was looking for a new chief, and Katona beat out five other applicants for the position.

“It’s a great community up here,” Katona said. “Very friendly.”

Maintaining a strong relationship with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office remains a top priority and is essential for his small department, Katona said, a sentiment echoed by former Shoshone Police sergeant and interim chief and current Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez.

“It’s been great so far, the communication and cooperation has been great,” Rodriguez said. “We’re both committed to working together and training together. We rely on each other, since we’re both small departments.”

Katona’s nearly two decades as an ISP detective will be a huge asset to the sparsely populated county, Rodriguez said.

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“With his investigation background, he can help guide the new guys and even the veteran guys,” the sheriff said. “We can always rely on somebody with 19 years of investigation experience.”

Katona’s been on the job just two weeks but has already dived in head-first, recruiting an ex-Nez Perce Tribal Police officer who has a police dog trained in drug detection and officer safety.

“We’ve got (several) major highways that run through here,” Katona said. “I’d venture to guess some drugs travel through Shoshone.”

Katona already has a house in his new community and says this isn’t a short-term position.

“I’ve been received so well,” he said. “I’m here for the duration.”

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