Undersheriff Si Bollinger retires after 30 years with Lassen County
Hired in February 1979, Bollinger and Warren went to high school together, started at the department together and “we’ve just kind of grown up in law enforcement together,” Warren said at the squad room lunch-time potluck marking Bollinger’s last day on the job Friday, Dec. 28.
“It’s going to be a hard void to fill departmentally, not to mention we’re losing 30 years of experience,” Warren said. “We don’t have anyone now even close to that.”
Bollinger said he’s actually only worked for the department full time for 28 years and 10 months. Before that he worked for the county road department, serving eight months as a reserve officer.
Scheduled to start work in judicial security on Jan. 2 as an employee of the Lassen County Superior Court, Bollinger said his most memorable case was investigating the November 1999 discovery of the bodies of two young girls who were victims of serial killer Gerald Gallegos. DNA tests confirmed the skeletal remains found in southeastern Lassen County were those of Brenda Judd, 14, and Sandra Colley, 13. The girls were abducted in 1979 at the Washoe County Fair in Reno and killed by blows to the head.
A landowner on his tractor found the remains on hundreds of acres of land he owns near Hallelujah Junction, along Highway 395 about 25 miles north of Reno.
Bollinger frequently said a person investigating such cases would go crazy if he didn’t have a sense of humor. He practiced the art of humor quite frequently, according to department personnel who filled the squad room along with members of other local law enforcement agencies.
They admitted the office was losing its most infamous resident practical joker and cartoonist. However, when asked about specific incidents, almost every current and former officer simply smiled and laughed, refused to give any specifics and referred the question to someone else.
Warren and former Sheriff Ron Jarrell both had no comment about Bollinger’s most notorious practical joke involving a jail matron and a roll of tape.
Jarrell, however, did express appreciation for the newspaper’s previous mention of an officer who gave very little information having attended the “Ron Jarrell school of press release writing.”
Bollinger, with the spark of mischief in his eye so familiar to anyone who knows him, simply said, “She stuck a chunk of tape on me, so I reciprocated and put a whole roll on her head. I shouldn’t have done it. I’ve been carrying the burden of that mistake my whole career.”
“Yeah, all the way to undersheriff,” Warren said.
Bollinger said he’d already packed boxes of the stuff from his office, where the walls had been bare for more than a week of their usual fishing and Scuba-diving pictures, and a drawing from his grandson of Bollinger catching a fish bigger than the fishing boat.
“All I’ve got to do is give up the key,” he told a coworker.
One of the undersheriff’s artifacts will end up framed on the wall, next to a star-shaped frame Bollinger carved for a picture of the late John Martin. It’s a cartoon Bollinger drew of himself answering the phone at the reception desk, saying “I don’t know how to help you! I’m the undersheriff.”
Sherry Bennett and Leslie Easley, the department’s front office staff, and Community Services Officer Sheri Trip, had to leave for 20 minutes, Trip said, and Bollinger agreed to answer the phones, which “all went crazy,” she said.
“The questions they asked and the things they wanted to have done, I couldn’t do,” Bollinger said of the phone calls. “I said, ‘I’ll take a message.’”
Despite a lack of knowledge about current office paperwork, Bollinger is highly regarded by his coworkers.
“He’s a good guy all around,” Trip said. “We’re going to miss him a lot.”
Curtis Gatie, who retired in December 2004, was Bollinger’s partner for 14 years.
“He was a great partner, somebody that I always relied on,” Gatie said. “And I think that was mutual.”
A lifelong Westwood resident whose family moved to Lassen County to work at the Red River Lumber Company, Bollinger also served as a volunteer with the Westwood Fire Department. He was a chaperone, with his wife Marlene, for school field trips, Gatie said, “long after his kids were out of school.”
Also refusing to give any details, Gatie did mention an incident involving an egg fight on Halloween.
“You’ve got to have the youth on your side,” Warren said, adding an occasional egg fight with the youth can only build rapport.
“I was the victim, sitting in the patrol car,” Gatie said with a somewhat pained smile, adding he’s saving the best stories for Bollinger’s retirement dinner in February. “When the press won’t be there,” Warren added.
Bollinger has “the greatest sense of humor and is the most serious guy at the same time,” the sheriff said.
Jarrell added, “He’s the best story teller in the world. He can really laugh at himself.”
Asked to comment, Bollinger, usually one of the most talkative graduates of Jarrell’s school of public relations, simply said, “I just want to say thanks to the people of the county for letting me serve for all this time.”
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