Richard Pierce was born in Madera on March 27, 1944, and was raised in the Kings County community of Avenal.
His father was an oil fields worker and also served two terms as the Avenal Constable. He graduated from Avenal High School and attended San Diego State College. He was hired as a deputy sheriff on Dec. 1, 1966, and early in his career worked in the courthouse as a bailiff, in the jail and on patrol.
He rose through the ranks, administering both the patrol division and the jail division for many years. He was a captain at the time he was elected sheriff without opposition in June, 1998. He was also unopposed during his 2002 re-election bid. In January 2006, he announced that he would retire at the end of his second term, bringing to an end a 40-year career at the Sheriff's Department. A father of five, he lives in Clovis with his wife, Beverly.
At the start of his term, the jail was releasing 250-300 inmates a week into the community due to the overcrowding of jail facilities. Sheriff Pierce convinced the Board of Supervisors to fund a three-story expansion at the North Annex jail, which provided an additional 1,300 beds, solving the problem. Sheriff Pierce also implemented computer automation throughout the county jail facilities, to manage a daily inmate population in excess of 3,000. He adopted community based policing within the patrol division, and added school resource deputies to work directly with students in all county schools. He encouraged gender and racial diversification throughout the ranks of the Sheriff's Department.
Tragically, two of the major investigations occurring during Sheriff Pierce's terms concerned the Dunlap area murder of Deputy Erik Telen on August 21, 2001, and the murder of Deputy Dennis Phelps near Clovis on May 25, 2002. Another high-profile investigation involved the stabbing of a Greyhound Bus driver by a passenger while he was driving near Manning & Interstate 5 on Oct. 4, 2002. The resulting crash of the bus killed two passengers, and injured more than 20.