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New chief probation officer well-received

Hard work, perseverance and great timing have brought Tuolumne County a superbly qualified chief probation officer.

Adele Arnold earlier this month took over from 10-year veteran Shirlee Juhl as head of the department, which has 19 deputy probation officers, 40 employees, a 2008-09 budget of $3.5 million and an active adult and juvenile caseload of 1,200.

Juhl established an exemplary record at the department, winning approval at the tail-end of her 10-year tenure for construction of a $16 million, 30-bed juvenile detention center to house young violators.

Now it will be up to Arnold to see that project, planned at the county’s Law and Justice Center site off Old Wards Ferry Road in Sonora, is built. And, although some might dread shepherding a major construction project through the labyrinth of government requirements, our new chief can’t wait.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Arnold, who in Siskiyou County saw a similar project through to completion.

“I absolutely enjoyed it,” she said. “In fact, being able to do it again was a big reason I took the job here.”

Having a local detention center, she explained, will do away with the “tragedy” of sending young offenders to lockups in counties 100 or more miles away.

Arnold brings impressive credentials to Sonora, including eight years with the Siskiyou County as a social worker, deputy probation officer, supervising DPO, assistant chief and, since 2003, chief.

She was also well-connected on the state level, representing county probation officers on the State School Attendance Review Board and representing small counties on the Corrections Standards Authority Board, which rules on funding for juvenile halls and jails.

“Getting her was a big coup,” said Eric DuTemple, presiding Tuolumne County Superior Court judge.

And somewhat of an unexpected one.

When an initial, four-month review and screening process ended without a hire, the county hired a recruiting firm, which also came up short. That’s when DuTemple thought of Arnold, whose reputation was both well known and excellent.

One problem: Arnold’s Corrections Standards Authority Board was right then amid evaluating Tuolumne County’s bid for $16 million in state funds to build the juvenile detention center. The judge knew he couldn’t be offering her a job, or even talking to her, during the decision-making process.

But once the board’s verdict was delivered, the conflict disappeared and DuTemple was on the phone. Not only was Arnold interested, but seemed to relish the challenges a new job would present.

“We’re thrilled,” said DuTemple, who said Arnold combines comprehensive knowledge of the juvenile and adult probation process with diplomacy, people skills and leadership. 

Arnold herself is in the process of buying a house with her husband, a retired teacher. She says good benefits, a more central location and, yes, warmer weather, helped convince her that Tuolumne County was the right place to be.

Given the strain our poor economy will put on the criminal justice system and space issues that the discharge of inmates from state prison may create, we’ll need a capable leader for the years ahead. So we’re glad Adele Arnold decided on Tuolumne County and that Judge DuTemple and others involved in filling the post didn’t give up on her.

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