A former Baker City Police lieutenant who retired in May as the La Grande police chief has returned to Baker County to work as one of the Sheriff’s Department’s two Panhandle deputies.
Brian Harvey, 57, served with the Baker City Police from 2006 to 2009 as second in command under former Police Chief Wyn Lohner. Harvey left the Baker City job to accept the position as chief of police in La Grande. He retired May 4 after 11 years in that role.
Just a couple of weeks later he and his wife, Becky, were ready to move to Oxbow. That’s Harvey’s new home base as he patrols the northeastern corner of Baker County under a contract paid by Idaho Power Co.
Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash said the idea of Harvey taking one of the Oxbow resident deputy jobs started as a conversation between the two.
“This was an opportunity for a position that appeared to be a really good post-retirement fit,” Harvey said in a recent telephone interview.
Warren Thompson, who has filled many roles over the years at the Sheriff’s Office, including as lieutenant overseeing the corrections staff at the Baker County Jail, is the other new Panhandle deputy.
Thompson and his wife, Sheila, also have moved to Oxbow for the job. And Warren’s salary is paid through contract with Idaho Power Co. as well.
The two deputies patrol the area of the county that also includes the communities of Halfway and Richland.
Both men fell on the same spot on the Sheriff’s Departments salary schedule. Each will earn $58,872 per year in the first year of their contracts.
They filled the vacancies of Josh Bryant and Scott Immoos, who retired.
Ash said it is invaluable to have two experienced officers on the job in those outlying areas.
“They are on their own,” Ash said of the two men. “Having an experienced deputy out there is better for the community.”
He noted that the deputies are 60 to 70 miles from the nearest backup and supervision.
Oxbow, an unincorporated community that sits about 70 miles northeast of Baker City on the Snake River, is about an hour and a half away from Baker City over Highway 86 in good weather. There are 174 people living in the Oxbow area, according to Idaho Power Co.
The City of Richland, which has a population of about 175 people, is 42 miles northeast of Baker City, and Halfway, the largest community in the region with a population of 288, is 13 miles to the north of Richland.
Harvey said he was eager to get to work as a resident deputy.
“It’s great,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to be done serving the community completely.
“This is a really nice transition,” he said. “It was time to get away from the stress.”
Harvey said he’s always enjoyed spending time in remote areas and being out in the country.
“And I’ve always loved Baker and Union counties, and Eastern Oregon,” he said.
In addition to the change of pace in his new job, he’s also looking forward to the recreational opportunities the area provides, including hunting, fishing and camping.
“I’m excited to be here and to integrate into the community,” he said, adding that his wife had a leg up on him in that regard because of her interest in quilting.
When the Harveys lived in Baker City, Becky would travel to the quilt shop at Halfway for its annual quilt sale, Harvey said. The store has since closed, but Harvey said his wife has stayed in touch with friends she made over the years through their shared quilting interests.