Retired Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles, 77, died Friday at his home in Caldwell, Idaho, from a series of lung ailments.
Stiles was elected as the seventh sheriff of Deschutes County and served from 2001 to 2007. He worked to bring stable funding to the office with former Sheriff Larry Blanton (at the time serving as undersheriff), the command staff and teammates at the sheriff’s office.
“Sheriff Stiles was a visionary leader, mentor, and friend. His service as Sheriff was instrumental in laying the foundation for how we provide quality service to our community today,” Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said in a statement to The Bulletin.
“He ensured a professional and proactive Sheriff’s Office by championing and attaining stable funding through a vote of our community, starting our Shop with a Cop Program, getting our office accredited, and, together with his wife Carol, founding the Sheriff’s Office program Central Oregon Partnerships for Youth.
“Our office and community are better because of his service as Sheriff. I will miss him deeply. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carol and grandson Zachariah,” Nelson wrote.
Stiles was a military veteran, having served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret.
“He was very proud of his military service,” his wife, Carol Stiles, said. The couple met and married after college at Illinois State University. They were married 48 years.
“He was an English major and really wanted to teach English,” Carol Stiles said. “But he took a job in law enforcement beginning with the Northglenn, Colorado, police department and the moment he put that uniform on, he loved it. He loved helping people,” she said.
Stiles served as the chief of the Moab, Utah, police department, and as a lieutenant with the Bend Police Department prior to serving as sheriff.
While with the Bend Police Department, he taught law enforcement classes at the Central Oregon Community College for 17 years and owned a fly-fishing guide service, as he was an avid fly fisherman. After retirement, he owned his own consulting business Legacy Leadership, and later served as the Prineville Police Chief. He also taught leadership classes in the Concordia MBA program.
When he took office in 2001, he discovered an embezzlement scheme by former Sheriff Greg Brown.
Brown was sentenced to 33 months in prison in connection with charges of fraud, money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen money.
The total amount of the fraud came to $575,000 from the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire District and county sheriff’s office.
“One person and one person only had total control of every single financial transaction in this organization,” Stiles told The Bulletin at the time. He discovered shredded records and reformatted computer hard drives after he defeated Brown and took office in 2001.
Stiles changed procedures at the sheriff’s office during his first week in office.
The first rule was one of the most basic: he required that all money in and out of the sheriff’s office pass through two people.
Stiles, who retired in April 2007 at age 61, contemplated a run for county commissioner, but he changed his plans thanks to a request from his family, especially his grandson, Zach.
“Because, when you were sheriff, you were never home and after you left being sheriff, you’ve been home all the time, and I like you being home, and I don’t want you to go away,” Zach, who was 5 at the time, wrote to his grandfather.
“The bottom line is that if I hadn’t already made up my mind, that would have done it.” Stiles said.
After retirement, Stiles launched a successful consulting business doing risk assessments for law enforcement agencies in northwest Oregon.
Services in Central Oregon are pending.