PICTURED: Sheriff Bill Ayub on the campaign trail. Submitted photo
by Alex Wilson
Bill Ayub and Jim Fryhoff have both served with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for about three decades, but are now facing off against each other in a heated race for Ventura County Sheriff.
The department has about 1,300 employees, a $300 million annual budget and provides law enforcement services for county unincorporated areas and five of Ventura County’s 10 cities.
Sheriff Ayub ran unopposed in the last election after former sheriff Geoff Dean decided to retire, and is hoping voters are pleased with how he led the department through turbulent times that included pandemic lockdowns and nationwide civil unrest.
But Cmdr. Fryhoff said he mounted a challenge after deciding Ayub is out of touch with many of the department’s rank-and-file deputies and civilian employees.
Fryhoff won endorsements from the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and other unions representing officers in local law enforcement agencies, while Ayub has the backing of former Ventura County Sheriffs, Geoff Dean, Bob Brooks, Larry Carpenter and John V. Gillespie.
Fryhoff said Ayub’s leadership during the pandemic was a factor in his decision to run for sheriff. When Fryhoff was serving as Thousand Oaks Police Chief, he implemented policies meant to keep deputies and the public safe from the virus, such as issuing warnings instead of tickets, and also added extra patrols around closed businesses to prevent burglaries, he said.
Fryhoff went on to say his decision to run stemmed from a meeting where Sheriff Ayub was discussing crime statistics and policing strategies with a group of captains and commanders.
“When I told him we could be doing things differently he said, ‘If you don’t like it, there’s an election every four years.’ And I realized at that moment, it didn’t matter how much experience I have, what my thoughts were on developing our employees, working together to make our organization stronger, doing what we can to keep our community safer. It didn’t matter because if it wasn’t his way, it was the highway,” said Fryhoff, who added that he believes morale at the department is the lowest he’s ever seen.
Ayub said employees are the department’s most valuable resource but he has not shied away from opposing the deputy’s union when he felt he had to. According to Ayub, the main issues of contention involved the department’s promotional process, and the amount of time the union president can spend on union business instead of law enforcement duties.
“I’ve had to say no to the deputy sheriff’s association leadership over a couple of issues. That’s created some friction and hard feelings. You know, labor unions want people who say yes and support every idea that they have. My responsibility is to the taxpayers, and the voters and the general public,” the sheriff said.
“Overcoming those challenges inspires me to work harder and do more.”
Ayub grew up in Ventura and heard a calling to work in law enforcement after his youth minister became a sheriff’s deputy.
“I was shocked because he was such a nice guy and I always looked at police officers as real tough guys,” Ayub said. “This guy was really personable and fun and he talked to me a lot about his reasons for doing it, talked to me about community service. And so that really piqued my interest.”
Ayub started out as a cadet with the Santa Paula Police Department in 1985 where he did jobs like washing cars. He went on to become a reserve officer with the Port Hueneme Police Department before serving four years with the Las Vegas Police Department ane then becoming a Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy in 1996.
Ayub took over as sheriff immediately following the Nov. 7, 2018 Borderline nightclub shooting in Thousand Oaks that claimed 13 lives including that of Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus.
“Throughout my term there’s just been one challenge after another, from global pandemic to social unrest to recovering from the Borderline, staffing challenges related to COVID,” Ayub said. “Overcoming those challenges inspires me to work harder and do more.”
Ayub said he will stand on his record as he faces voters and is proud of his accomplishments.
“We’ve emerged very well. We’ve kept crime low despite those things. We’ve gotten, under my leadership, improvements to our equipment and training. We’ve got some excellent programs to work on preventing crime through working with the youth, and stepping in to interdict mental illness and drug abuse in our jail system,” he said.
“I really have a strong ability to lead”
Fryhoff said he always wanted to be a cop growing up in Pasadena. He was inspired by a cousin who was a police cadet in Davis, California, and is now that city’s chief of police, Fryhoff said.
But when Fryhoff was a teenager and had an opportunity to be a police explorer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, his dad said they couldn’t afford the required clothes and equipment.
“So I was heartbroken, obviously because I didn’t get to do it, because we just didn’t have the money,” Fryhoff said.
After Fryhoff turned 16, he got jobs at malls and a grocery store so he could afford a uniform, he said. After he turned 18, Fryhoff was accepted as a cadet with the Pasadena Police Department where he worked for a year until he was hired as a deputy in Ventura County in 1990.
Tragedy struck in 1996 when Fryhoff was involved in a shooting in Meiners Oaks that claimed the life of 26-year-old fellow deputy Peter Aguirre. Fryhoff shot the suspect, who survived, and the suspect was later convicted of murdering Aguirre.
During a previously planned road trip with a friend just days after the deadly shooting, Fryhoff said he questioned whether he wanted to remain in law enforcement. But talking to his friend made him decide to stay on.
“I said, ‘I think I’m done,’” Fryhoff recalled. “And he said, ‘That guy just took out two officers, not just one.’ And that kind of hit me hard. I didn’t like how that sounded, so I decided to come back to work.”
Fryhoff was awarded a Medal of Valor in 1997 for his actions during the shooting.
He said he’s glad he stayed on as a deputy because he’s served many interesting assignments including Police Chief of Ojai and Thousand Oaks, working on investigations, and has even been named Deputy of the Year twice.
“I really have a strong ability to lead, to mentor and really build community relationships and address the crime trends that we’re seeing in a really good way,” Fryhoff said.
More information on Bill Ayub at www.ayubforsheriff.com.
More information on Jim Fryhoff at www.fryhoff4sheriff.com.