Top two finishers in Aug. 7 primary will face off in November
Compiled by Marcy Stamper
With the retirement of Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers after four four-year terms, there are six candidates running for sheriff. All state a preference for the Republican Party. The top two finishers in the Aug. 7 primary will advance to the November general election.
By state law, the sheriff is the chief executive officer and conservator of the peace of the county. He or she has the authority to arrest and imprison individuals, and to execute warrants in carrying out those duties.
Candidates for county sheriff are not required to meet any special qualifications to be elected but must obtain a certificate of completion of a basic law-enforcement training program within 12 months of assuming office.
Questions asked of all candidates
All six candidates for sheriff were asked to respond to the following questions. Some responses were edited for length. Their answers are numbered to correspond with the questions.
1. What is your educational and professional background and experience?
2. What are the three main law-enforcement issues in Okanogan County?
3. The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Department has been under the same management for many years. Would you continue the same direction in the department, or are there things you would change?
4. If this hasn’t been addressed above, please describe your platform or priority campaign issues, outlining problems and solutions.
5. Please provide a brief personal biography.
1. I have 22 years of law-enforcement experience, 14 years of administrative experience as mayor of Okanogan, and seven years of owner/operator of my small business. I have served on various boards and advisory committees. I am a certified instructor for various disciplines and have brought my level of firearms certification to a high level.
I am a local, state, academy and SWAT instructor. I have experience managing a government-agency budget and in negotiating employment contracts as an administrator, and as the employee representative. I have collaborated with state, local and federal agencies for small- and large-scale projects. I have supervised employees at the city and for my business. I have managed volunteer groups with over 100 volunteers, including search and rescue.
2. Manpower — with the largest county by area in the state, combined with a large percentage of public lands void of taxes and low budgets — the need for manpower to cover the area is always an issue. By looking at alternative funding sources and leveraging grants against each other, we can increase the number of deputies patrolling and assigned to special tasks. I will work hard to improve efficiencies and provide more man-hours on the street.
Drugs — Opioids, heroin and other drugs are rampant in our county. We have seen a rise in overdose deaths, and in property crimes, which are usually associated with drug use. We need to have a three-pronged approach:
• Work with prevention agencies such as the Okanogan County Community Coalition. Work with kids in the schools, and be proactive as much as possible.
• We need to contain the crime. By aggressive investigation and enforcement, we can minimize the impact of thefts and contain the drug trade as much as possible.
• We need to maximize our use of drug court and support other service providers that help end addiction, such as the Suboxone clinics, in conjunction with Okanogan Behavioral HealthCare for inpatient and outpatient treatments and substance-use-disorder programs.
Safety — I have spent the past 14 years attempting to provide instruction to improve safety. I teach active-shooter response to schools, major employers and county agencies. I teach a variety of local classes to the public for free, including firearms safety and home defense and the law.
I want to see our children protected and safe in the schools with armed patrol, and I want to provide for neighborhood-watch programs, volunteer police-assistance programs, and reserve deputies.
3. I think we are going in the right direction, but I know we can do some things better. I feel like it is time to take the hard work done in the past and take it to the next level.
With the proper training, equipment, leadership and enthusiasm, we can be the pinnacle of law enforcement, protecting and serving with pride and connection with the community. I want to utilize technology with [social-networking and neighborhood-watch] apps like Nextdoor and Neighbors.
I want to have assigned contacts for neighborhood-watch programs, and to work with other agencies to improve training countywide. We can improve these programs to make sure that all law enforcement is working seamlessly together.
I want to improve efficiencies within the department and free up man-hours by streamlining paperwork and focus at the upper-management level. By constantly looking for ways to improve and utilize new technology and techniques, we can provide better service to the public. Along with improved efficiencies, I want to be aggressive with grants to provide additional patrol officers.
4. My slogan is “Your Partner in Safety.” I feel that only by partnering with the public can we truly reach the goals I am setting. I know that having a continual flow of information to and from the public will bring a reduction in crime and a safer community.
As sheriff, I will have an assigned deputy as a community liaison and there will be a constant flow of communication and transparency with the citizens. We will have a program in the schools to begin teaching children at an early age about respect — not only for themselves, but for their teachers, law enforcement, parents and our country.
5. My family moved to Okanogan County when I was 14. I got into law enforcement in 1996. I worked for the Colville Confederated Tribal Police for two years. I worked for the City of Omak for seven and a half years. [Retiring] Sheriff Frank Rogers was my sergeant in Omak and, when he was elected sheriff, I followed him to the county, where I have worked since.
I am married with one son and a stepdaughter. I have been an active member of the community and have volunteered most of my life. I am the Okanogan County suicide-prevention coordinator. I want to give back to this community that has given me so much.
1. I have a criminal law and justice degree, a wildlife degree, and a parks and recreation degree. From 1999-2001, I worked patrol for the Colville Tribal Police. From 2001 to present, I have held the positions of detective, supervisor, and now, commander, of the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force. For the past four years, I have been the chief criminal deputy with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. The majority of my background and experience has been major criminal investigations and a leadership role within the Drug Task Force and Sheriff’s Office.
2. Property crimes, drugs and budgetary issues.
3 and 4. [Retiring] Sheriff Frank Rogers has been very successful and forward-thinking in his almost 16 years as the Okanogan County Sheriff. I would seek to continue with programs such as K-9, Honor Guard, our Marine Patrol program, the Special Response Team and our top-notch range facility and instructors.
However, there are things that I would change. First and foremost, I would immediately bring back our Pro-Act unit. This was a newly formed, two-deputy unit that began in 2017 as a test program. Their primary focus was the investigation of property crimes and felony warrants. This was an extremely successful program that reduced our property crimes significantly and resulted in the arrest of numerous individuals who had outstanding warrants.
Although all the sergeants agreed this was a very successful program, the majority of them believed it was more important to keep all four field squads full, so the two deputies were returned to their respective squads at the beginning of 2018. The numbers clearly show that in 2015-16 our property crimes increased; in 2017 they went down dramatically; and in 2018, since this program is no longer in place, our property crimes have increased and, at the current rate, will surpass the 2015-16 numbers.
I will also make it mandatory that each deputy, sergeant, detective and administrative staff of the field division spend at least one day throughout the school year inside any school of the county that would like our presence. That equates to about 30 more opportunities for us to have a chance to foster some type of a relationship with the youth of our communities, to put a name to a face, and hopefully have a positive impact on a young person’s life. I have done this as chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office on a number of occasions, having lunch with the kids in the Virginia Grainger Elementary School in Okanogan.
Budgetary issues will always be a concern. I’ve heard others say they will be able to do more with less. As an administrator of the Sheriff’s Office, let me assure you, there isn’t anything “less,” unless you speak about employee loss, which is not an option. We have to continue to be creative and think of new and innovative ways to keep quality employees who are very skilled and highly trained. I manage several grants within the Sheriff’s Office, and some of those funds can be used to send our employees to training. I will continue to seek cost-beneficial grants.
5. I was born and raised in Okanogan County. Generations before me homesteaded in this county. My first job at 18 was an oil-field worker in California.
I returned the following year and went to college. After a year in college, my father was seriously injured in a logging accident. I quit college and returned home to support my mom and dad. I spent the next five years working for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and crew boss, and the two years on an engine. I returned to college and earned degrees in criminal justice, wildlife, and parks and recreation.
In 1999 I was hired by the Colville Tribal Police; in 2001, I was hired as a detective with the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force and have held every rank within the task force, including commander. This is my fourth year as chief criminal deputy for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.
1. I have been a volunteer firefighter with Okanogan County Fire District 6 for nearly 15 years, and was promoted to station lieutenant in Mazama, and then to captain, responsible for effectively leading a team of volunteer firefighters and acting as incident commander when needed.
I am an entrepreneurial business owner in the technology/internet sector and have been involved there since the early growth phase of the modern internet in the 1990s, managing development teams to bring in technology projects on time and under budget. My most recent experience is designing and maintaining scalable, high-availability server infrastructure systems for large internet e-commerce companies. I also have construction experience in many trades, in addition to operating heavy equipment.
2. What I’ve primarily heard from county residents and my own observations: illegal drugs, property crimes and response times.
3. Yes, there are some areas where I hope to make changes:
Law-enforcement response times: It’s a very large county, and it can take a while for a deputy to respond to calls because the responding deputy is located on the opposite side of the county and has a long travel time. With the benefit of my career experience in technology, I will bring an analytical approach to this problem, primarily by using data analysis and mapping to improve the efficiency of deputy schedules, patrol routes, and assigned areas with the goal of improving the response times to calls in the Methow Valley and other corners of the county.
Training: There has apparently been no funding in the Sheriff’s Office budgets for any officer training except gunfighting and defensive tactics.
I believe that, in our county, de-escalation training is critical for officers to learn how to calmly handle a suicidal or mentally ill person and take all possible precautions to avoid getting trapped in a situation where the officer feels there is no other choice but to fire a deadly weapon. I believe that law enforcement should never act as the “assisted-suicide squad,” and no one should have to think twice about calling law enforcement about a potentially suicidal or mentally ill person. I will work on the office’s budget and with the county commissioners to prioritize de-escalation training for field officers, and other training — such as Narcan treatment for opioid overdoses — that would benefit the residents of the county.
Budget: The Sheriff oversees a significant portion of the county budget, and I believe that the taxpayers of the county should be able to voice opinions on priorities for law enforcement, helping direct how those budget dollars are used. As Sheriff, I would work to develop ways to fairly survey taxpayers to determine what they want for their local law enforcement. As part of my background in technology, I believe that I can bring additional insight and experience into better connecting this agency with the people it serves.
4. As a Methow Valley-specific take on the response-time issue, our local town law enforcement officers have told me of their concerns about the sparse coverage of sheriff’s deputies in the Methow Valley and the burden it puts on them. Their concerns include being asked to regularly handle many routine calls in the valley — including calls in local schools — that are out of their jurisdictions and are the county’s responsibility. This isn’t fair to the taxpayers of the towns, and town officers don’t want this one-sided situation to continue. I believe my proposal for lowering deputy response times to the outlying corners of the county, especially the Methow Valley, will help ease this situation.
While the Sheriff’s Office cannot require deputies to live in a particular area, I personally enjoy being in the Methow Valley and intend to continue to live here. As long as I’m sheriff, we would have a county officer living here, for more locally based responses.
5. My wife and I have lived in the Methow Valley for most of our adult lives, and have spent time living across much of the valley — from Mazama to Twisp. We enjoy raising our five children here in the wonderful community the valley provides.
1. My qualifications for the office of sheriff have been gained from over 27 years in positions of increased responsibility and complexity. I began my professional experience with a four-year, active-duty tour in the U.S. Marine Corps. I earned the noncommissioned officer rank of corporal before I separated from service with an honorable discharge.
I have dedicated the past 23 years to the public safety of the people of Okanogan County as a corrections deputy, patrol deputy, patrol supervisor and sergeant. I also served in collateral positions as a team leader and commander of the regional Special Response Team, training, managing and leading a highly capable team in response to crisis situations. I have also been the field training coordinator, directly supervising the training of all newly hired deputies.
For eight years, I worked in the traffic unit, where I sought and received training to become a collision reconstructionist — the first Okanogan County deputy to get this training — so I could provide the very best investigations to those in Okanogan County for serious and fatality collisions.
I also sought and received training as a drug recognition expert and then as an instructor, which enabled me to provide the best impaired-driving investigations I could. I wanted to be able to train local deputies and officers so they would be able to recognize people impaired by substances other than alcohol to keep our roads safer.
I have worked to increase the capability of the Sheriff’s Office through the acquisition of grant funding. For over 10 years I have applied for, received and managed state and federal-level grants, which have provided necessary equipment for the safety of our deputies and additional patrols for our county roads.
I have completed emergency-management training as well as National Rifle Association School Shield training, which is focused on creating pathways for law enforcement to advise schools on safer ways to operate while protecting our children.
While working for the Sheriff’s Office, I obtained my bachelor of science in organizational leadership in criminal justice and a master’s of strategic leadership.
Since 2013, I have been a team member of the DUI court and assisted in getting the treatment court going.
Over the past two and a half years, I have served as an elected director on the Okanogan School District Board of Directors, providing me with valuable experience in dealing with the public, budget issues, and the impact of taxes on the district.
2. There are many challenges the Sheriff’s Office is facing. One issue is having the appropriate staffing in place to provide the county with the proper amount of law-enforcement coverage.
I will work with the county board of commissioners to increase the personnel available for the sheriff’s office. Having the proper staffing is necessary to be able to patrol this large county as well as to be able to conduct proper and complete investigations once the issue has been reported. If we continually have our deputies respond to calls, they are not afforded the time required to investigate and solve the issue. Adding a few deputies to the patrol division will allow them to have the time to conduct the investigations properly.
Another issue I intend to address is the safety of our county’s schools. Although our county has been spared the impact of an assault on our children at school, we need to take the steps to safeguard them.
The communications system utilized by law enforcement, fire and medical across the county is aging. The cost of a complete upgrade is daunting and we cannot afford to wait until it is an absolute, dire need before making a plan for action to upgrade the system for our emergency services.
3. I will continue to support the many programs within the Sheriff’s Office, such as Special Response Team, K-9, Honor Guard, and Marine Patrol.
I will seek to employ a school resource deputy program. The goal will be to have all the schools in the county served by a school resource deputy or officer to provide safety as well as a direct contact for the students and staff to law-enforcement assistance.
4. I would still perform the duties of law enforcement and be present in the community, as opposed to doing only administrative or political work.
The patrol-vehicle fleet of the Sheriff’s Office has not been replaced on a regular basis. My goal will be to employ a regular replacement of vehicles in order to reduce the major repair costs and towing fees associated from vehicles being too old to be serviceable for law enforcement.
5. I moved to Okanogan County at 10 years old and it has been my home ever since. The small cattle-ranch life taught me how to work hard, be responsible and be accountable.
Along the way, the most important involvement I have had has been being a father of three kids and a mentor to all those that would allow me. The important part in this is that I see the impact of criminal activity and natural disasters on the individual family and have learned to work to reduce the impact.
1. I’ve been in law enforcement for 19 years. I’ve held every position from the bottom to the top and I have all of the training that goes along with that. I’ve been an animal control officer, patrolman, field training officer, driving instructor, defensive tactics instructor, sergeant, detective and chief of police.
I know how law enforcement works. I’ve developed budgets, set department policy, managed people, and dealt with all the day-to-day aspects of running an agency.
As chief of police in Omak, I have:
• Developed and implemented a 10-hour shift system, which saves the taxpayers money and provides better safety for our officers because they are not always working by themselves.
• Worked with businesses and community groups to get them involved in the policing of the city, leading to decreased crime.
• Managed a budget and figured out how to do big things with very little money.
• Implemented department policy and developed a direction and mission for our entire agency.
• The thing that I’m most proud of is that I’ve been able to fill all the vacant positions in my agency and then retain all the employees.
2. Drug use is a huge problem in this county and across the country right now. Drug abuse leads to many other serious problems that cost the taxpayers money and negatively impact businesses and individual citizens.
With the increase in drug use, we also see an increase in theft, robbery, burglary and trafficking of stolen property. The drug problem also leads our county on a path of overall poverty and destruction. The method that drug addicts use to support their addiction is theft.
Current law-enforcement approaches are not having a great-enough impact on this issue. A vicious cycle has been created in the legal system due to many bureaucratic pitfalls and hurdles. This cycle must be stopped. We need to think outside of the box. Law enforcement needs to start working very closely with citizens, farmers, ranchers and business owners. It will take all of us working together to have an impact on this problem.
We need to start proactively defending the rights and prosperity of our citizens, businesses, farmers and ranchers. Currently, it seems that law enforcement only responds to a crime after it has already occurred. This does little to help the people who were victims of the crime.
We need to treat citizens as partners in solving these issues before they occur. Through better communication and cooperation, we can and will defend against these problems.
Manpower: It is a struggle to provide enough manpower to properly patrol and serve this county. I would strive to have as many deputies as possible working in the field instead of working in the office. Areas of this county such as the Methow should not have to go without law enforcement. I would do everything in my power to make sure that there is constant coverage in those areas.
3. The main thing I would change at the Sheriff’s Office is the focus. I feel that the mission needs to be focused back toward what is important — the people. Every activity and function of the Sheriff’s Office should be beneficial to the public and citizens. I would strive to work very closely with the public and include the public as part of the solution.
4. As sheriff, I intend to lead and organize efforts to bring citizens, community organizations and resources together to combat any issues we might be facing. Currently, we have many state, county, city and private institutions working independently of each other on issues such as crime, drugs, poverty and homelessness. There is little to no communication or cooperation between these groups. There is very little sharing of resources on some of these issues. Efforts are failing in these areas because we have simply forgotten what makes us successful — teamwork, community and hard work.
5. I grew up in Okanogan County. I moved to Texas after getting married, where I served as acting sergeant, field training officer and defensive-tactics instructor for a police department.
In 2003, we returned to Okanogan County. I was hired by the Omak Police Department in 2004, where I have been a patrolman, a driving instructor and a field training officer. In 2009, I was appointed as a detective, then promoted to sergeant and supervisor. In 2016, I was appointed Omak chief of police.
1. I am an Omak resident who served eight years in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of sergeant. I have an honorable discharge.
I am also a 27-year veteran deputy for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. I have served in a wide variety of agency programs and positions, including Drug Task Force supervisor/detective, SWAT Special Response Team leader, K-9 handler, clandestine laboratory operator, reserve coordinator, field training officer and guild president.
My wife and I run a successful small-business rental company named Jumps R Us Inflatables. Running a business is not an easy task. Running a small business has given me experience in managing and executing budgets as they pertain to income and expenses, as well as focusing on liability.
2. One of the main law enforcement issues in Okanogan County is the ever-increasing drug epidemic taking over our communities. Okanogan County’s crime rate is comparable to a lot of other jurisdictions in the state.
I can simply state that a vast majority of crime trends in Okanogan County is directly linked to drugs. If we can enforce stricter and harsh punishments for drug cases, then some of the property crimes and other crimes committed while on drugs will drop.
My objective is to analyze and address this problem. With my eight years as a drug task force detective and two years as supervisor, I have first-hand knowledge of the drug problem plaguing this county.
Currently, there is a lack of resources committed to the enforcement side of this problem. I will move to strengthen the local drug task force from its current dismal state and vigorously enforce all drug laws currently on the books.
A second issue facing Okanogan County is the increase in property crimes, such as burglaries and thefts. However, a majority of those are driven due to drugs, and the drugs need to be the focus of enforcement as a way to diminish property crimes.
A third issue facing the Sheriff’s Office is shrinking budgets. It is a balancing act on how to provide the highest level of services without going broke in the process.
My solution as sheriff would be to go back into the budget and try and streamline where and how the money is spent.
We need to realign our agency personnel and duties assigned to those personnel to get the most out of each employee and resource before asking for additional funding, whether that be grants or requests to the commissioners.
3. Overall there do need to be some changes made to the Sheriff’s Office. As far as a direction, there honestly has not been any specific direction given in recent years. This is clear by the simple fact that there are six candidates running for office.
Under my administration, a lot of agency programs will continue as they are. However, there needs to be an interdepartmental realignment of both personnel and duties to boost the resources available to the communities we serve.
4. I plan on addressing the Okanogan County jail. The Okanogan County Correctional Facility is an integral part of the law and justice system. Douglas County has a contract with Okanogan County to house their inmates for a fee. One could say that Okanogan County is attempting to run the jail as a business, in which Douglas County is a paying customer and Okanogan County is the business owner.
There is a slight problem with the current business model. As anyone knows, in order for a business to continue to effectively operate, a business owner needs to take some of its profit and reinvest it back into the business.
Unfortunately, the Okanogan County correctional facility has lacked a true leader and business-savvy owner. Anyone who works in or who has toured the facility in the recent past could easily attest to the fact that the facility is in need of major repairs that simply are not getting done — nor are going to get done — under current leadership. This is not only a public-safety issue, but also a major safety issue for the fine men and women who serve there as corrections officers, and for the inmates themselves.
As your elected sheriff I will immediately move to replace current leadership in the jail with someone who has the interest of the facility and personnel in mind, while balancing the needs of the county and public.
5. I was born in Spokane and went to high school in Brewster. At age 17, I enlisted in the Army National Guard. I spent eight years enlisted before deciding to get out of the military so I could focus on a full-time career in law enforcement. I started my career as a sergeant in the Washington Army National Guard, assigned to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office under the Counter Drug Support Program.
I was hired by the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office in 1991. I worked as a patrol deputy and as a detective and supervisor with the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, and on the North Central Washington Special Response Team, where I was a team leader. In 2016, I was reassigned to the field as a deputy.