Are you planning for succession?

Author:Diggins, Bias A.
Position:Guest Editorial - Editorial

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, my life changed. Michael B. Hancock, mayor of the city and county of Denver called me at home at 9 p.m. to tell me that my friend, Sheriff Gary Wilson, was stepping down under a mutual agreement the two made. Hancock then stated he was going to conduct a national search for a new sheriff and asked if I would serve as the interim sheriff until he found a permanent replacement. The mayor told me that Wilson and a few others suggested my name be placed into consideration. I was surprised, humbled, shocked and a bit hesitant. I told the mayor I would take on the challenge, as! believed in his leadership, and I knew our department would need to have someone at the helm.

I really didn't know how big of a hill I was about to climb. What I did know was that at an entry level, I was at least knowledgeable enough to step in and to have an operational, administrative and political sense of what the position of sheriff in our agency meant. Wilson and former directors of corrections William "Bill" Lovingier, Fred Oliva and John Simonet--men I have known for more than 20 years--were all visionary leaders. They truly believed in succession planning, and I am grateful for it. Without being able to see how the "business of jail" is run from all angles, I would not have been prepared to stand in the gap.

There are several classes on succession planning available through various national organizations. For example, the American Correctional Association offers customized train-ings on succession planning. Such classes focus on the many topics that need to be addressed when thinking about preparing future leaders. This article will center on three important topics: operations, administration and political preparation.


I have worked in many areas of our department, and have been blessed to have worked in all of our divisions. From the jails, to our Court Services Unit, to the Internal Affairs Bureau, to the Training Academy, to Emergency Response Unit/SWAT Team, I was given an opportunity throughout my career to see the global view of our organization. This has helped me to understand operationally how the decisions in one area directly affect another. For example, I knew that limiting the number of bookings at the county jail would begin to back up the number of inmates housed in pre-arraignment detention. Moving staff around to other areas in your agency is key to molding future leaders and will help staff understand how...

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