Auburn police chief set to retire at end of month

Harris says she is looking forward to change
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn can expect to see some changes in its police department, including the retirement of its chief. Chief Valerie Harris is set to retire June 29, and Captain John Ruffcorn is expected to be sworn in as police chief June 30, Ruffcorn said Tuesday morning. Harris currently makes $177,342 in salary and benefits. Her retirement compensation is yet to be calculated. Ruffcorn currently earns $129,301 in salary and benefits. There is no word yet on what his new compensation package will be or whether his position as captain will be filled. Harris, who has been chief for about five-and-a-half years, said Tuesday afternoon she is looking forward to the change. “It’s 30 years,” Harris said. “It’s time to spend time with family and enjoy life when I’m not being a police officer 24 hours a day. I’m moving on to a new chapter, but I will still be supportive and involved in the Auburn community. I’m excited. It’s going to be interesting. 30 years of law enforcement service, being a cop you are continuously on and in that mode of paying attention and the responsibility for others. It’s going to be nice to focus on family, and ride bikes and enjoy vacations.” Ruffcorn declined to comment about how he feels about taking over the position. “This really should be (Harris’) time, and that’s kind of the way I feel about it,” Ruffcorn said. “She is the one that should be celebrated here before she leaves.” Ruffcorn said Harris’ retirement is both a sad and happy event. “Obviously she’s a huge asset to the community, and she’s done a wonderful job since she’s been here,” he said. “I think she’s going to be missed. But I’m excited for her to be able to start a new endeavor as she moves forward in her life. This is an exciting time obviously for the police department. This is an exciting time for her. It’s bitter sweet. You are happy that that person’s moving on, but like I said she will be missed.” Ruffcorn declined to comment on whether or not his position as captain will be filled once he becomes chief. “We need to sit down and talk about that,” he said. “I’m talking with (city officials) about several different proposals to save some money here. I have some ideas, and obviously with the economic situation we want to try to save as much money as possible. I want to finalize with them before I speak out of turn.” City Manager Bob Richardson said Tuesday the city is still working on Ruffcorn’s chief salary, which would have to be approved by the City Council, as well as any potential captain position. “Both Mr. Ruffcorn’s salary and the ultimate structure of the police department are currently under review and will be decided upon by the City Council by the end of June,” Richardson said. Andy Heath, administrative services director for the city of Auburn, said Harris’ pension information is not currently available, because it has to be calculated by CalPERS. Heath said Harris’ current yearly salary is $133,949. The city also pays $43,393 for her health benefits. Ruffcorn’s current salary is $101, 460 a year, and the city pays $27,841 for his health benefits. Mayor Bill Kirby said Harris has made a huge difference in the quality of the police department. “I think we have been very fortunate to have Valerie come in during a very difficult time in the police force, and she’s made a lot of significant changes that have dramatically improved the quality of our police force. We are very fortunate that she brought in John Ruffcorn, who will be helping step into her shoes. Valerie has done an absolutely phenomenal job, and we are very sad to see her go but wish her the best. She has a lot to offer in other areas.” Reach Bridget Jones at