In 1909, Judge Robert M. Clark of the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of Ventura, established a Probation Committee. The Committee immediately appointed Thomas W. Spier as Probation Officer of Ventura County, and he took his oath of office on April 9, 1909. Mr. Spier, a businessman who engaged in the purchase of dried beans, performed his probation duties on a part-time basis. His responsibilities included the handling of all indigent cases and other work that would later be handled by the “welfare department.” Mr. Spier did not have an office until July 1913 when the “new court house” became ready for occupancy. On January 7, 1914, Mr. Spier filed his first probation report.
On January 17, 1927, Clay Claberg was appointed Probation Officer to succeed Mr. Spier. Three months later, his sister, Maryan Claberg was appointed Assistant Probation Officer to assist in the investigation of indigent cases within Ventura County. On February 7, 1928, the Probation Department and Welfare Department became separate entities by order of the Board of Supervisors.
On April 1, 1944, Frank A. Colston began his reign of nearly 30 years as Chief Probation Officer. Mr. Colston built a reputation throughout the State for his progressive approach toward the prevention of juvenile delinquency. Department employees admired Mr. Colston for the paternal approach he exhibited toward his staff, making them feel as if they were truly part of his “family.”
During Mr. Colston’s tenure, the Probation Committee continued to serve in an advisory capacity to the Juvenile Court and Probation Officer until 1961, at which time it was abolished as a result of the revision of Juvenile Court Law. Subsequently, the Juvenile Justice Commission was created. The members of the Commission, which included no less than seven citizens for a term of four years, met monthly to receive reports on and make recommendations relative to the policies, activities and programs of the department.
Following Mr. Colston’s retirement in 1973, the Probation Department’s Fiscal Officer Jack Marron was appointed as Interim Chief Probation Officer during an anticipated lengthy search for Mr. Colston’s successor. Under Mr. Marron, the Department was renamed the Corrections Services Agency due to the proposed plan that all adult custody facilities and adult inmates would become the Agency’s responsibility.
In 1976, William Forden was appointed Chief Probation Officer following a lengthy stint with the California Department of Corrections. During his tenure, responsibility of the Work Furlough Program was transferred from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department to the Agency. However, political changes in the County halted the plan to transfer the remaining adult custody facilities to the Agency. Chief Forden was recognized for his commitment to adult intermediate sanctions. He developed such programs as “Deferred Prosecution” and Court Liaison Project (CLP Unit).
In 1992, Frank Woodson succeeded Mr. Forden as Chief Probation Officer. Mr. Woodson started with the Agency in 1976 and served as Deputy Chief Probation Officer throughout Mr. Forden’s tenure. Mr. Woodson was known for his dedication to the treatment of juvenile delinquents, collaboration with other departments, and his desire to involve staff in Agency decisions.
In 1997, following Mr. Woodson’s retirement, Calvin C. Remington was appointed Chief Probation Officer. Mr. Remington served as Deputy Chief Probation Officer during Mr. Woodson’s tenure, having begun his career with the Agency in 1974. Under Mr. Remington, the Agency saw many significant changes including: renaming of the Corrections Services Agency to the Ventura County Probation Agency on December 16, 1997; tremendous personnel growth as a result of the passage of Proposition 172; funding and completion of the Juvenile Justice Complex; and the arming of selected probation officers.
In 2007, the Agency gained their first female chief with Karen J. Staples’ appointment. Before becoming Chief, Ms. Staples served the Agency in the capacities of Group Supervisor, Deputy Probation Officer, Senior Deputy Probation Officer, Supervising Deputy Probation Officer, Fiscal Officer, Division Manager, and Chief Deputy Probation Officer over a County career spanning 39 years.
Upon Chief Staples’ retirement in 2010, the Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Deputy Mark Varela as the new Director/Chief Deputy Probation Officer. Mr. Varela started with the agency as a deputy probation officer in 1988 and promoted through the ranks, working assignments in Adult Investigations, Oxnard Field Services, Gateway Community School, Colston Youth Center, Juvenile Facilities (Detention and Commitment Units), Staff Training Unit, Juvenile Supervision Services, and Probation Services, among others. As Chief, he oversees 417 sworn and non-sworn employees supervising approximately 14,322 adults and 1,854 juveniles in the community, at the Juvenile Facilities, and at Work Release.