After more than three decades with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — including a total of 10 years at the Crescenta Valley Station, where he recently served as interim captain — Lt. Mark Slater will retire next Thursday.
Station employees will hold a July 31 sendoff barbecue to celebrate Slater’s last day at the station where he served as a leader and mentor to young deputies.
“We’re going to be sad to see him leave,” Crescenta Valley Deputy Chad Pluimer said Tuesday. “He’s been a great supervisor. Anything you need to know, he’s the guy to go to — he’s got all the answers.”
In a sit-down interview with the Valley Sun, Slater, the 56-year-old father of three reflected on his tenure with the Sheriff’s Department. His career began in 1986 with a two-year stint as a deputy working in detention centers in Castaic and Lancaster.
It wasn’t too long before he realized he might like a work assignment that would let him circulate among the wider public.
“In the jails your community is the inmates,” he said. “I wanted to be out in the streets and be at a station.”
As a patrol deputy and traffic investigator for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station from 1991 to 2004, Slater handed out moving violations and pieced together the causes of vehicle collisions, often informing family members when fatalities occurred.
Looking to broaden his experience in 2004, he applied for the rank of sergeant and was promoted and assigned to oversee the same jails he’d worked in as a deputy. One year later, Slater requested assignment to the Crescenta Valley Station, a place he’d come to know through work visits.
“I like the vastness with the mountains right there and it was an easy drive just off the 210 (Freeway),” the Santa Clarita resident recalled. “I just fell in love with the community and the support from the community — it just seemed to stand out more here.”
About eight years into his assignment, Slater saw another opportunity to advance to lieutenant and was promoted in 2013. He supervised jail programs at three correctional facilities and came to see another side of LASD as inmates received job training, life skills lessons and high school diplomas.
“It showed me that we’re not just about locking them up and throwing away the key,” Slater said. “We’re providing them the opportunity to better themselves and to break the cycle of recidivism.”
Despite his enthusiasm for jail programs, Slater began to tire of the constant commute between facilities in Castaic, Lynwood and Downtown Los Angeles and requested to return to the Crescenta Valley station in 2017.
His relationship with then-Capt. Chris Blasnek, and his ties with La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta officials deepened as he worked and participated in numerous community and charitable events. After Blasnek was promoted to commander in January and reassigned, Slater served as interim captain while the department searched for a new leader.
Although he put in for the position, department executives moved other candidates forward. Figuring he’d gone as far as his own hard work and initiative could get him, Slater decided it was time to retire.
“The department had a process and I was not selected to be a part of that process,” he said, confessing it took some time for him to make peace with that. “I’d said I was going to work until 55 — a couple years ago one of my passwords was ‘reTire@55’ — it was something I could envision.”
Slater plans to travel and spend time with wife Doreen, daughter Ashley, 24, 22-year-old son Christopher and daughter Natalie, 19. For those who’ve come to count on the lieutenant’s reliability and dedication, however, his departure is tinged with sadness.
“Lt. Slater excelled in the personal attention he gave the community and the importance and value he placed on ensuring that the city’s needs were met,” La Cañada City Manager Mark Alexander said in an email. “We hate to lose him, but we are grateful for his many years of service to the community.”