County ushers in new era of leadership

January 10, 2019

With a great sense of dignity, honor and celebration — mixed with a few tears of emotion and joy — two new Merced County leaders were sworn into office this week, as well as two others who are continuing their important roles.

New District Attorney Kimberly Helms Lewis took the oath of office Monday afternoon during a ceremony near the steps of the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

Earlier that same day, Scott Silveira joined the Board of Supervisors as the new District 5 representative.

At other ceremonies, Sheriff Vern Warnke and District 3 Supervisor Daron McDaniel also took the oath of office to start their second terms.

Lewis, who replaces Larry Morse II, is the first woman elected to be the county’s top prosecutor since the DA’s Office was established in 1855.

She addressed a large crowd who gathered for the ceremony, saying she will do her best to honor fellow law enforcement officers every day by furthering their pursuit of justice.

“As I consider the District Attorney’s Office, and my new role, I have thought most about the teamwork that is needed in our justice system. There is an allegiance among law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office especially. I have always appreciated the special bond that unites those who work for the common good to make our community safe.

“I had an opportunity to see this bond demonstrated in the most potent and powerful way this last Saturday as I attended the service for Cpl. Ronil Singh who was taken from us in the line of duty. Witnessing the commitment and faith of law enforcement officers from all over the state of California and from beyond our borders, and knowing that each one of them stood that day with the same level of determination to keep our community safe that Cpl. Singh had carried with him, impacted me greatly. Honor was present with all of us Saturday morning, and it’s here today as well.”

“Every day I intend to honor the work and sacrifice of our law enforcement officers by putting forth my best efforts to further the pursuit of justice. And to the community, I am honored to have received your support and your votes. It is with the deepest respect that I promise to honor your confidence in me by working to ensure that your District Attorney’s Office serves your community with the highest level of integrity, a sound work ethic, and an abiding commitment to bring justice to you.”

Silveira, a Los Banos native, third-generation dairyman and former City Council member, joined the Merced County Board of Supervisors promising to be a tireless advocate for the Westside communities of Dos Palos, Los Banos, Midway, Santa Nella, South Dos Palos and Volta.

The District 5 seat was held for the past 28 years by Jerry O’Banion, who retired in December.

Said Silveira, “I truly believe there are great things to come for Merced County. I feel like I’m a pretty straight shooter. I don’t hold back. I will tell you how I’m thinking. I’m also willing to compromise. … Taking this position won’t change the person that I am. I’m here to represent you, and I want to be that strong voice for District 5.”

Sheriff Vern Warnke was sworn in at the Courthouse Museum on Tuesday afternoon by Merced County Superior Court’s Honorable Shelly Seymour

“The last four years have been, just really wow,” said Warnke, who was surrounded by deputies in full uniform. “We’re one of the few agencies in the state that have this one particular problems, and its that we have more people who want to work here then we have openings, and its because of the men standing behind me that actually make this agency run.

“Most of you who see me out doing my stuff as a sheriff, but there are two people who I really need to thank. The first one is my bride, and we’ve been together for a long time, and without here support I couldn’t do what I do. The second one is from the day I took office, I told God I’d be his co-pilot. And every day I pray to God that the men and woman who work here stay safe and provide a safe atmosphere for the folks in this county. It goes without saying that on my desk there is a leather-bound daily Bible, and I read it.

“Folks in my administration know that I get pretty touchy when folks talk about taking God out of what we do here. I’ll end it with this. We wear this star because we serve with honor and integrity, for you see the star is found in heaven, and heaven is home to God.”

Warnke thanks those in attendance once again before inviting all to the Merced Elks Lodge to a follow-up gathering.

Merced County District 3 Supervisor Daron McDaniel of Atwater was sworn into his second term on Jan. 3 inside the Board Chambers (currently under renovation). He was sworn in by Supervisor Jerry O'Banion, who is retiring after 28 years of service as a board member.

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