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First responders: Madera County’s sheriff office

Two years into a four-year term then-Police Chief Jay Varney of Chowchilla was elected Madera County sheriff in 2014 and assumed the mantle of the county’s lead law enforcement officer and the county’s chief coroner.

He took the official oath of office on Dec. 16, 2014, and began serving Jan. 5, 2015.

Varney has 34 years of law enforcement experience garnered in California, Michigan, and Texas. He commands a force of 85 employees.

Varney earned a master’s degree in criminology from California State University, Fresno, in 2014. In June of 2013, Varney earned a master’s certificate from the University of Virginia, upon graduation with the 253rd Session of the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Prior to his election as sheriff, he worked double duty as Chowchilla police chief and acting city administrator. Varney is the 15th sheriff to serve the County of Madera since its incorporation in 1893, according to

His department is responsible for providing public protection, coroner’s investigations and court security, serving civil orders of the court and investigating crimes that occur within the unincorporated areas of Madera County.

The duties are divided into two distinct divisions, both of which operate under the direction of Varney. These divisions are the Operations/Administration and the Investigations/Professional Standards divisions.

As the head for the Madera County Office of Emergency Services during this summer’s wildfires, the sheriff’s department has been especially busy supporting Cal Fire with evacuations and directing fire victims to emergency shelters.

The department’s award-winning search and rescue team trains volunteers to hunt for people lost in 2,153 square miles that comprise Madera County.

Its Operation Lost and Found program provides locator devices for the elderly, Alzheimer patients and other at-risk individuals who are prone to wandering and getting lost. A radio control wristband emits a unique radio frequency every second, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The wristband is assigned exclusively to the individual client. Staffed by community volunteers the device signal is readable up to a mile on the ground and five miles from the air. Monthly visits check the devices, its batteries and its continued use. The program is funded through grants and donations.

Another free service is the MC Alert system, which is one of the many tools utilized by the department to contact residents and property owners in the case of an emergency. The system database includes landline telephone numbers. Residents should register with the program to add cell numbers and email addresses for this free service.

When the system issues a notification about a potential safety hazard or concern, residents will receive a message on the voice or text communication methods they have registered. When requested for the notification, residents can confirm they have received the message and they will not be contacted by any subsequent methods regarding that particular notification. If a resident does not confirm, the system will continue to attempt to reach them at all of the contact paths they have registered.

Varney has been married to his wife, the former Amy Sevenski, for 32 years. They have two children.


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