Sergeant Aaron Belknap and Correctional Deputy Tamara Wessel were hired by the Sheriff’s Office on the same day – Feb. 7, 1996 – and retired in August and July, respectively.
Two longtime Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office employees retired over the summer and were honored by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 3 for their decades of service at the county jail. Sergeant Aaron Belknap and Correctional Deputy Tamara Wessel were hired by the Sheriff’s Office on the same day – Feb. 7, 1996 – and retired in August and July, respectively.
Belknap was originally hired as a corrections officer and was promoted numerous times over the years. According to the resolution presented by the board of supervisors, Belknap consistently received “exceeds standards” marks during his employee evaluations.
He also served as a jail training officer, and noted that he trained five sergeants who eventually promoted over him. Belknap also went above and beyond to help his coworkers learn. He created training materials that are still used in the jail today, including “Teletypes for Dummies.”
Belknap shared that he “had a great time” in his line of work and said he enjoyed training new deputies and getting to watch them flourish.
Wessel also took on a number of roles in her 23 years at the jail, including serving as a bailiff and supervising inmates on SWAP detail. She also worked alongside a team at the Day Reporting Center to teach job skills to inmates.
Captain Jeff Huston was present on Sept. 3 to commend the two former officers. He mentioned that Wessel had been taken hostage by an inmate only a year into her career with the sheriff’s office – held with a handful of sharpened pencils to her throat.
Even after that incident, Huston said, Wessel managed to go on to serve over twenty more years at the jail. Despite the terrifying nature of the experience, Wessel said it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to her at that point in her career because it showed the other officers and inmates that she could handle herself, and it earned her respect.
Like Belknap, Wessel also said that she “had a great time” working at the jail. “I loved my job, but it’s a young man’s game and it was time to go,” she said.
Captain Karl Houtman acknowledged that, with Wessel and Belknap’s departures, the jail has lost two experienced officers. “I can only hope we’ll have the same level of work ethic with incoming COs,” he added.
Each of the supervisors thanked the retired officers for their committed service to the county. District 5 Supervisor Ray Haupt joked, “Working at the sheriff’s department, you’ve finally gotten your ‘get out of jail free’ card.”