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Distler named new undersheriff

Bruce Distler has been promoted to undersheriff of San Juan County. He will continue to reside on Orcas Island and commute to San Juan Island. - Cali Bagby/Staff Photo
Bruce Distler has been promoted to undersheriff of San Juan County. He will continue to reside on Orcas Island and commute to San Juan Island.
— image credit: Cali Bagby/Staff Photo

by COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG

Editor/Publisher

Sheriff Rob Nou rattled off a long list of attributes when describing why Deputy Bruce Distler was promoted to undersheriff: education, experience, personality, temperament, philosophy.

“It’s exciting and I am glad that process is finally done,” Nou said. “He was the best one for the job … he and I work really well together.”

Nou pored over 25 applications from five states during the past five months. Undersheriff Jon Zerby retired in July after 14 years on the job, but stayed on part-time through the late fall.

“It’s been a bit of a strain,” Nou said. “But it was really important for me to feel confident I was getting this one right.”

Nou says it’s an “interesting” position to fill because most people who have the skill set for the job are already in an advanced position.

But Distler, who has a master’s degree in management and criminal justice from Colorado Technical University, was looking to give more to the department and stepped up to the plate.

“I thought I had a bit more to offer,” he said.

Distler is a nearly 20-year law enforcement officer, serving San Juan County since 2006. Prior to beginning his police career, he served 22 years with the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a master sergeant in Aeromedical Evacuation.

In his law enforcement career, Distler has worked assignments in both small towns and rural settings. He has served as a field training officer, school resource officer and marine law enforcement officer. He is a drug recognition expert, specially trained to determine if people are under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

Distler and his wife Bonni will continue to live on Orcas. He will commute to Friday Harbor, but hopes to spend some office time on his home island as well.

“I am an Orcas guy and I want to keep my ties there,” he said. “I have too many friends and ties to the community. Just because I moved up in the organization, doesn’t mean I am not available to the residents of the island.”

Nou is pleased with Distler’s multi-island connection, and says, “it’s important to both the organization and the community to keep those lines of communication open.”

Distler is considered the second in command of the Sheriff’s Office. He will supervise sergeants, detectives, corrections officers and the traffic officer.

The position of sergeant on Orcas and Lopez will be announced in mid-January. The job has been vacant since Steve Vierthaler retired last February.

“I want this to be the best possible office and give the best possible service to the members of our community,” he said. “We have a ton of good law enforcement officers. I will be making sure we’re all on the same page and getting the job done.”

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