PRESCOTT - Scott Mascher just started his new job as chief deputy of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Wednesday, but he has already immersed himself in politics and budget issues and is drawing attention for his quick retirement.
Mascher, 49, is back at YCSO after retiring in February. That date capped a career with the agency that began in 1982 when he worked as a volunteer. In 1986, he began a paid role, and since that time, he's done just about every job possible at YCSO.
Retirement was not sitting well with Mascher. "When this (the chief deputy position) came up, I spoke with my wife, and she said, 'I can tell you miss it - why don't you give it a shot?' and so I did," he said.
On day one, he came into the office and asked if there were any upcoming meetings he needed to know about. He was told the Board of Supervisors was going to be discussing medical marijuana in about an hour. Mascher hustled over to the supervisors' meeting room and was able to give his input on enforcement.
Mascher is outspoken about budget critics who say they agency is mismanaging its money.
Since 2008, he said, he's been involved in the budgeting process. "Since then, we've not gone in the red with this economy downturn," he said. "We have tightened our belts, we've gotten smaller - we're down 65 people - we shut down a jail, and we're not spending money we don't have."
In fact, Mascher said, the agency will end the fiscal year with a $400,000 surplus, which it intends to use to buy fleet vehicles to replace high-mileage ones that are worn out.
"That will get us about 20 vehicles," he said. "We get a smoking deal on these Tahoes."
The helicopter, donated by local flight school Guidance Helicopters, is one of the things he fully supports and believes the agency can fund easily, given the relatively inexpensive operating costs Guidance is offering.
"For this upcoming budget, I'm not even going to put in an operation line-item for the cost of the helicopter," he said. "I have some K-9 officers working aggressively, and just in the last couple of months, there was one seizure (as part of a drug bust) that was $200,000, another was $180,000." While YCSO doesn't get to keep all that money, Mascher expects that, once it is turned over to the county RICO fund, the agency will get back at least the $30,000 or so it will take to operate the helicopter for a year.
Closure of the Prescott jail was necessary and a good budget decision, Mascher said.
"We received a lot of criticism for that, but it was a decision the sheriff made based on economics. It saved us millions and millions in taxpayer dollars," he said. "That was the right thing to do."
Criticism is being leveled at Mascher himself. By leaving YCSO in February and then returning in April, he is doing what's called "double-dipping." He collects retirement benefits from the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System from his first hitch, and he's now collecting an annual salary of $92,164 as well.
Alan Vigneron, director of county Human Resources and Risk Management, said Mascher has moved into the Arizona State Retirement System this time around, which costs the county money.
"We have to make contributions, both the employee and the county have to make contributions to the (ASRS) system," said Vigneron.
"Even though a lot of people don't like double-dipping," Tom Thurman, District 2 county supervisor, said "at that level of the Sheriff's Office, we need that kind of local experience." He said Mascher was the clear choice for the position.
For all its cost-cutting measures, Mascher said the agency is still as effective as ever in fighting crime.
"We're still aggressively putting people in jail, and the crime rate is dropping," he said.
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