Ogden named Sweet Home’s new police chief

Scott Swanson

Jason Ogden came to Sweet Home 25 years ago because he and his wife thought the small community would be a good fit.

From all appearances, they were right: On Wednesday, Nov. 30, only a month after the anniversary of his arrival, Ogden, 47, was sworn in as the department’s new chief after serving in an interim capacity since his predecessor, Jeff Lynn, stepped down in September.

In a ceremony held at City Hall, Ogden took the oath of office from City Manager Kelcey Young, who said she believed “this is exactly the right place for him to be,”explaining that city officials had completed a “competitive pJrocess” to determine that Ogden was their choice.

The search involved candidates nationwide, Mayor Greg Mahler said later.

“Even though it’s been a very short period of time, I have already been able to witness his strength as a leader,” Young said. “He has taken on these additional responsibilities with enthusiasm and dedication. And he’s also reacted with humility and compassion and as a true servant.”

She said he had watched Ogden respond to “multiple” situations ” in just a short period of time and he’s done so in a calm yet authoritative way, as befitting his position.”

But, she added, it’s the new chief’s “heart” that she’s found “really amazing.”

“Each time his very first thought was for his team and for the community, putting himself last and really trying to figure out what’s best for the community as a whole,” she said. “Every single time.”

Ogden told a crowd of approximately 40 people, who were present in the City Council Chambers for the ceremony, that his new position was “just a great opportunity to continue the hard work that’s already been put in here,” mentioning his predecessors, Bob Burford – who hired him in 1997, and Jeff Lynn, who stepped down earlier this year to join the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

Speaking the next day with a reporter, Ogden said he felt “super blessed” that the two “left me in a position with a very healthy department. I mean, everyone here is really connected with each other and we don’t have drama. We don’t have, really, any issues. We just all enjoy our job.”

Ogden has literally risen through the ranks, joining the department in October 1997 as one of two new officers in the department, the other being David Kangas.

A native of Fortuna, Calif., 12 miles south of Eureka, Ogden started thinking about pursuing law enforcement in high school.

“I thought it was just a very fascinating career,” he said. “I went on a couple of ride-alongs when I was in high school and I was, like, ‘I can see myself doing this.'”

He was active in sports offered by the small Christian high school he attended – cross-country and track, and basketball – “I was not good at basketball.”

On the advice of “some friends who were older than me,” he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and economics from George Fox University, where he met his wife, Pam.

They were married their senior year and returned to northern California, where Ogden began attending the police academy at the College of the Redwoods. He was midway through that program when his mother-in-law in the Portland area sent him a want-ad from the Oregonian newspaper about a job in Sweet Home.

“Our goal was to get back to Oregon, eventually,” Ogden said.

He applied and Burford hired him.

He’s enjoyed living in Sweet Home, he said. Five years into his law enforcement career, he worked in Washington County for about 10 months, but “my wife and I decided that living up there wasn’t for us, so we ended up moving back down here,” Ogden told The New Era.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2013 and in 2021, when Lynn established a captain’s position and named him to it. In September of this year he was named interim chief when Lynn resigned.

Ogden began thinking about the possibility of serving as chief after his promotion to sergeant.

“I think I had somewhat of a desire for that,” he said. “But, you know, it’s not like everybody gets that opportunity. And so things just kind of have to work out just right. I thought, ‘Whatever happens, I’ll just kind of work that way. If it happens, great. If not, it wasn’t meant to be.'”

Sweet Home has been a good place to live and work, he said.

He and Pam have four children of their own and two whom they’ve adopted: Kelly, now a sophomore at George Fox; Luka, a senior at East Linn Christian, and who competes for Sweet Home in competitive cheer, earning two individual state championships; Ivan, Ember, Hudson, who was born in Korea, and Jossa Mae, who joined the family in 2019.

The family fundraised for two years, staging a massive garage sale that raised $4,500 to qualify for a matching grant, one of two grants they secured in their effort to adopt Jossa Mae, who was born in Utah.

As he takes over as permanent chief, Ogden acknowledged that the department has struggled with retaining full staff “for years,”and particularly in the last couple, when officers have opted to move into other fields. However, he maintained, the department “really doesn’t have issues.”

As chief, he said, he’d like to find a way to establish one or two more positions in the department, particularly in the area of traffic enforcement.

“That is something that’s come up regularly in the last few years,” he said. “There has been an increase in traffic, and I’ve seen more issues with that. So I would really like to tackle that issue. You look at Lebanon, they’re growing. We’re growing, because we’re kind of a bedroom community to them.”

“It really feels like family – you know,” said Ogden, who has also served as a pastor in the area. “You get to know people and ever since I’ve been here, whether you’re a chief or a sergeant or an officer, there’s always been a feeling that you can just walk in and talk to the chief, you can walk in and talk to your sergeant, or whatever. It’s always been like that and that’s what I really like about it. People genuinely care about each other, whether it’s work-related or outside of work.

“So I think that has really been a significant factor in me staying here for a long time. Plus, working in a small community, you get to know so many people out there that it makes it easier to solve crimes. And you feel like you’re having an impact in the community in which you live, which I absolutely love.”

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