Thomas C. Sawyer was born in Glendale, California, on January 19, 1944, to Elton and Ulla Sawyer. Elton was a policeman for the city of Los Angeles and Ulla, a native of Sweden, was a homemaker. Sawyer married Linda Ripley in 1962 and the union produced two children, Thomas and Jennifer. Sawyer attended school in Southern California and then worked for five years as a landscaper for Los Angeles City Schools, before being accepted to the California Highway Patrol Academy in 1967.
After graduation from the CHP Academy, Sawyer was assigned to the Glendale area and rode motorcycles for the next six years. From April of 1973 to November of 1990, Sawyer worked at the Merced Area CHP Office, building relationships with influential community members and establishing name recognition as the area’s Public Affairs Officer. In November of 1990, Sawyer’s 23-year career with the CHP ended when he was elected Sheriff. Sawyer is the only sheriff in Merced County history who was a peace officer at another agency at the time of his election.
During his more than 10 years as Sheriff, Sawyer instituted many changes that would forever redefine the role of sheriff’s deputy. Of these changes, the most significant would be the consolidation of the Coroner’s Office in July of 1993. Additionally, Sawyer established the Community Law Enforcement Offices (CLEO) and volunteer program, expanded the Explorer Scout Program, emphasized acquiring technology-based resources, and opened the North Area Station in Hilmar.
Sheriff/Coroner Sawyer retired mid-term in May of 2001 to take a part-time consultant position with the Facility Group of Atlanta. He and his wife, Catherine, whom he married in 1998, make their home in Stockton.