Wowak, who has spent 32 years in law enforcement — 12 years with the Capitola Police Department, and nearly 20 with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office — said that he will retire at the end of 2014.
He said that he felt that the timing was right to retire, as he is in good health, he's at the end of his 4-year term, and his protege Chief Deputy Jim Hart is up for election to replace him.
“One of the driving forces in making this decision was that I had a willing and highly capable successor in Jim Hart,” Wowak said. “I know that (Hart) will continue to bring the department forward.”
Wowak is probably best known in the San Lorenzo Valley for his role as the lead investigator into the 2006 murder of Joanna “Asha” Veil and her unborn child, and the subsequent arrest and conviction of her killer, Michael McClish.
He said that he is “most proud of the advancements we've made as an organization” during his tenure as Sheriff, including the department's new headquarters in Live Oak, the rapid adaptation to the state-mandated prison realignment, and the $25 million grant secured to revamp the closed jail facility in Watsonville into a treatment and education facility.
“I think the crown jewel (of his tenure) is to bring a new, modern Sheriff's Office headquarters to the Live Oak community, which benefits the whole county,” Wowak said. “My goal is to be finished with that project before I leave office.”
He said that he would focus on continuing to do his job as Sheriff right up to his retirement.
“Right now my job is to finish my term and I would like to assist my successor get elected,” Wowak said. “Between then and now, I have plenty of work to do.”