By Don Nelson
Winthrop Town Marshal David Dahlstrom announced on Nov. 26 that he is resigning because of a military obligation that will keep him deployed in Korea for at least the next year.
Dahlstrom, who has been marshal for the past four years, is a U.S. Army reservist who has served in Korea for several brief periods during his time as marshal. He said he chose to resign rather than ask the town to hold his position open.
“It’s very challenging when I go away [for military service],” Dahlstrom said. “This is in the best interests of the town.”
Dahlstrom said he intends to pursue his military career and it’s not likely he will return to law enforcement. “I’ve enjoyed being marshal, but I’ve always considered going back to the military,” he said. Dahlstrom said he would be leaving the valley immediately. Dahlstrom will be based in Seoul as a special operations sergeant, he said.
Mayor Dave Acheson said the town’s civil service commission will meet this month and begin the process of looking for a replacement.
Winthrop has two other full-time officers on its force, and Acheson said that should be adequate for this time of year. The mayor said a replacement would likely be hired by March 2014, if the right candidate can be found.
“We’ve been lucky to have him,” Acheson said of Dahlstrom. “He has fit well in the community. It’s been a pleasure to serve with him.”
Dahlstrom became a town deputy in September 2007. Before that, he had served in the special forces in Iraq and Africa. He was named marshal in November 2009.
The outgoing marshal said he believes that deputies Ken Bajema and Seth Carlson are both qualified to apply for the position. Bajema was hired in 2010 and completed police academy training in January 2011. Before that he pursued a 15-year career in information technology. Carlson, who was hired in March 2013, previously had been an officer with the Wenatchee Police Department for five-and-a-half years.
More merger talks?
While Acheson indicated that Winthrop will begin looking for Dahlstrom’s replacement, the marshal’s departure may revive recent discussions about merging the police forces of Winthrop and Twisp for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Twisp currently has two full-time officers serving a community more than twice as big as Winthrop.
A potential merger of forces has been raised in the past, but the idea gained more momentum during the past year after the Town of Twisp and its police officers raised questions about the Winthrop department’s professionalism in 2012.
Twisp suspended its mutual aid pact – under which officers from each town could assist the others if necessary – in late 2011 because of concerns raised by Twisp officers about police and citizen safety that arose from some incidents involving Dahlstrom and Bajema.
Since then, relationships between the two departments seem to have improved. A Winthrop deputy marshal who was critical of Dahlstrom’s leadership resigned and was replaced by a Twisp deputy, Mike Hartnett, who had been laid off because a federal grant expired. Hartnett subsequently took a job with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and was replaced by Carlson.
While Acheson praised Dahlstrom’s performance, their relationship had its ups and downs. In January 2012, the mayor suspended Dahlstrom for seven days without pay because of alleged alcohol-related incidents while on duty. Dahlstrom had earlier received a written reprimand from Acheson related to the same issue.