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The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office celebrated nine promotions, including the swearing in of a brand-new undersheriff, during Monday's ceremony at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. 

Before a packed room of colleagues, family and friends, Sheriff Bill Brown promoted a chief deputy, a commander, two sheriff's sergeants and an undersheriff, who is second in command to the sheriff and oversees the day-to-day operations at the Sheriff's Office. 

Solomon "Sol" Linver, a 34-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office was sworn in as the new undersheriff, replacing Bernard Melekian. Linver has led the criminal investigations division, the special investigations bureau, the operations support division and has served as the chief of law enforcement operations during the past year. 

"I can say that 34 years ago, as a young deputy, I never thought in my wildest dreams I might be the undersheriff for this amazing agency," Linver said. "It is my privilege to help provide the men and women of the Sheriff's Office with the support, tools and training they need to do their best."

Brown said the Sheriff's Office will benefit from the years of experience Linver brings to the position. 

"Sol Linver has impressive qualifications and extensive experience as a law enforcement practitioner at the line, supervisory, management, command and executive levels," Brown said. "He is a man of integrity who is bright, caring and unsurpassed in his dedication to the Sheriff's Office, and I am proud to promote him as our organization's second in command." 

The sheriff also took the opportunity to thank his outgoing Undersheriff Melekian, who has started his new job as the assistant county executive officer over public safety.

The five sheriff's deputies promoted Monday were chosen after challenging and competitive testing processes, according to a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. 

Craig Bonner, a 25-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was promoted to chief deputy of law enforcement operations.

Bonner's assignments have included working in the Sheriff's Office of professional standards and in the special investigations bureau, as well as managing the Coroner's Bureau. Bonner also has led the North County Operations Division and most recently was the commander of the Operations Support Division. 

Kevin Huddle, who's been with the Sheriff's Office for 20 years, was promoted to commander of South County Operations. While working as a detective in major crimes, he oversaw a number of high profile murder investigations and most recently served as the sheriff's adjutant. 

Gary Wilberding was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Goleta Valley. Wilberding has served on the hostage negotiation team for nine years and also is recipient of a 2004 H. Thomas Guerry Award for Superior Performance/Conflict Resolution.

Matthew Fenske was also promoted to the rank of sergeant. Sgt. Fenske has 16 years of law enforcement experience and was Santa Barbara County's first investigator solely dedicated to combat human trafficking. He has received numerous awards from a variety of community groups for his work with vulnerable victims. 

Fenske is currently assigned to South County Operations and Goleta Valley patrol. 

Additionally, Brown also promoted a number of support staff including records supervisor Susan Campbell, financial office professional senior Kristie Velasco, administrative office professional senior Michele Hague and correctional counselor Timothy Tibbetts.

Anyone interested in a career with the Sheriff's Office should visit www.sbsheriff.org and click on join Us to find out more about job opportunities. The agency currently has opening for dispatchers, deputy sheriffs and custody deputies.

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Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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