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Half-century later he still works the badge

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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He’s been in law enforcement for what seems like his whole life. Ed Leighton Sr. was raised on a farm in Loomis, with one brother and four sisters. He did a little of everything on the family farm, where they grew pears and plums. “Most of my life had been on the farm, and I really loved farming,” Leighton said. He eventually left the family farm for new work experiences, which included training as an apprentice carpenter, serving as a mechanic with Southern Pacific Railroad and working for Aerojet General. Leighton knocked around for a few years and in 1960, in his early 20s, on the advice of friends he took a job with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. “A lot of my friends were in law enforcement. I thought I’d give it a try,” Leighton said. He’s been there ever since, and during a recent shift his co-workers and courtroom staff gave the surprised and touched Leighton a little party at Auburn’s Historic Courthouse, commemorating 50 years of service with the sheriff’s office. “I liked everything about being in law enforcement, and I look at it this way: if you find a career you really like, you will never work another day in your life,” Leighton said. “It’s been good for me. I’ve got no squawks.” Leighton started by being trained on patrol. He worked in the old jail when it was behind the historic courthouse. He even worked on the county farm in Sheridan when inmates grew vegetables that were served at the jail, juvenile hall, the Iron Mine Camp in Christian Valley and the Placer County Hospital. “The vegetables were used all around at county facilities. Some were frozen for wintertime use,” he said. Leighton has also worked on patrol, inmate transportation and investigations. William Scott was the sheriff when he started 50 years ago. Leighton has also worked under Sheriff Donald Nunes and current Sheriff Ed Bonner. Working to provide security in our county courthouses has probably been his favorite duty. He worked as a bailiff for Judge Richard Simms in Superior Court in the 1980s. Leighton also worked in the courtrooms of Judges Richard Gilbert and Larry Gaddis, all together serving for more than 20 years in Placer County courts. “I liked working in the courtroom. Each case was different, nothing was ever the same,” he said. In 1994, Leighton retired after 34 years. “I was off 30 days because it was mandatory before you could come back, and I have been there ever since,” Leighton said. “There was not enough work to keep me busy at home,” he said. He came back working three days a week, and now works two days a week, more if needed, at Auburn’s Historic Courthouse, staffing the magnetometer security machine, checking courtroom participants before they enter the building and providing security at the entrance of the courthouse. As he passed the 50-year mark with the sheriff’s office, Leighton has no plans to retire. “Fifty years is a long time, but you know it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long,” Leighton said. “The people I work with are tremendous, the public is fantastic, and I enjoy what I’m doing.”