COOS BAY — A changing of the guard is taking place at the Oregon State Police Coos Bay Area Command.

As of Tuesday, Lt. Steve Mitchell, 40,  has replaced Lt. Steve Smartt as head of the regional command.

Smartt, an Elkton native who took over as commander in 2003, will now lead the agency’s LaGrande Area Command.

Mitchell most recently commanded the agency’s office at Oregon State University. Before that, he spent time with the OSP Office of Professional Standards and in patrol positions in Klamath Falls, Roseburg and Central Point.

Mitchell said the agency’s highway safety mission is critical, especially in light of a crash near Bandon on Monday afternoon that killed two people.

“It’s our big priority,” he said.

The Coos Bay Area Command, based out of offices on Airport Lane in North Bend, oversees patrol duties for more than 342 miles of highway between Elkton and the California border.

The command’s 21 sworn officers and two nonsworn employees are based out of the agency’s North Bend office and a worksite in Gold Beach.

Fish and wildlife troopers under the command enforce hunting and fishing laws, and a detective handles major investigations and serves on the Coos County Major Crimes Team.

Anther trooper is assigned to the South Coast Interagency Narcotics Team.

Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

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