Incumbent Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley and two challengers — Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow and Kevin Newport, a former Okanogan County sheriff’s deputy who is now a sergeant for the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Public Safety Department — presented views on leadership and fiscal oversight, the county jail, and the effects of increased polarization at a forum sponsored by the Twisp Valley Grange on Monday (June 27).
The three candidates answered questions from the grange and the audience.
Hawley is nearing the end of his first four-year term as sheriff, which he called “one heck of a ride.” After four years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Hawley started his career with Okanogan County, serving two years at the jail and 16 years on patrol, before being promoted to sergeant.
He pointed to his leadership of county law enforcement during an “unprecedented” time, with COVID restrictions, scrutiny of policing brought on by the murder of George Floyd, and the dismantling of the Tonasket Police Department.
Before his 12 years in Twisp, Budrow held almost every position in law enforcement — except undercover and administrative roles — in 38 years in jobs across the country. He has expertise in emergency management, has worked with tribal governments, and understands how jails work. He pointed to his relationships with state legislators and his role in obtaining funding for Twisp civic building.
“I have the greatest job in the world” as Twisp police chief, Budrow said. But he’s running because he believes something is broken in the Sheriff’s Office and feels a responsibility to fix it.
Newport worked for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years, as a deputy, drug task force supervisor and field-training officer among other responsibilities. He retired from the office three years ago to take the job with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in southwest Washington.
All three stressed the importance of communication with law enforcement officers from other agencies and with everyone they serve in the county. They emphasized their commitment to treating everyone equally, regardless of race, ethnicity or beliefs.
Staffing and jail
Newport criticized Hawley’s leadership, saying the Sheriff’s Office had lost a record number of field and corrections deputies. He had strong words about current management of the jail, which he said was “falling apart.” He attacked Hawley for maintaining restrictions on jail bookings, which Newport asserted has allowed people who commit low-level crimes to remain on the street, contributing to an increase in crime by signaling that no one cares.
Budrow also criticized Hawley’s management of the jail, contending that the jail is still closed to new inmates and that he and other police chiefs haven’t been given an explanation.
Hawley defended his leadership of the jail, explaining that booking restrictions are still required to protect inmates, staff and families from COVID, and that the county’s policy has ensured that the jail remains open and operational.
Hawley said the staffing problems at the Sheriff’s Office reflect hiring issues across the country, and that he has been open and honest and welcomes people to come and talk with him.
Hawley explained the complex budget and organization he manages, including patrol, communications and records, and the jail. He has worked within the budget and developed a replacement schedule for vehicles with more than 200,000 miles on them, he said.
As sheriff, Budrow said he would look into how money in the Sheriff’s Office is being spent and to understand what isn’t being accounted for.
The law and the Constitution
All three said that they reserve the right not to enforce laws they deem unconstitutional.
Washington law clearly sets out sheriff’s duties but, when appropriate, Hawley said he would look into a Constitutional issue and decide accordingly.
As police chief he has had to follow the law, but as sheriff, he would have more latitude regarding Constitutional issues, Budrow said.
“I believe that when the sheriff takes the oath, he takes the oath to uphold the Constitution — it’s quite simple; there’s no gray area there,” Newport said. He vowed to represent Okanogan County citizens, not Olympia or Washington, D.C., and said he’d be willing to bring a legal challenge if necessary.
They all said that, despite recent laws that restrict some actions by law enforcement, they can do their job by conducting thorough investigations.
A member of the audience asked what firearm initiatives they would support to reduce the risk of mass shootings.
Hawley pointed to his work with schools in the county to increase security and limit access. It’s important to enforce existing laws and make sure that people serving time aren’t released from prison, he said.
Newport favors school resource officers and criticized efforts to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
Budrow pointed to his experience with active-shooter situations and said that it’s necessary to enforce existing laws, since new laws would only make innocent people guilty.
Drug and mental health issues
They all criticized recent legislation that limits their ability to address crimes associated with drug and mental health crises. Hawley pointed to his work with the county’s therapeutic courts to get people into treatment and teach skills that will improve their life. Budrow and Newport said existing law interferes with their ability to address these problems, particularly those caused by drug dealers.
An audience member asked about the county’s undersheriff, Aaron Culp, and whether it’s acceptable to have an undersheriff who is not a commissioned law enforcement officer.
Hawley pointed to Culp’s experience as a lieutenant colonel with the military and with the military police and said his outside perspective has been invaluable. Culp is “worth his weight in gold,” he said.
Budrow and Newport agreed that Culp is doing a good job, but raised concerns that he’s not available to go on calls or make arrests at a time when the sheriff’s office is short staffed.
In response to a question about cooperating with federal agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Newport said the county faces a tough situation and noted the major crisis on the southern border. The county needs to work with chiefs of police and sheriffs across state to arrive at solutions, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office isn’t concerned with immigration status, only with criminal status, Hawley said. The office works with federal agencies on issues such as human trafficking, he said.
Budrow said he takes the same approach as Hawley and that he looks only at whether someone has committed a crime. He noted that Okanogan County is in a corridor where people may be smuggling drugs or engaging in other illicit activity.
Some questions went beyond the day-to-day role of law enforcement, looking at the well-being of people in law enforcement, since they regularly encounter trauma and violence in their work. All three candidates stressed the need for debriefing and mental health support.
The forum can be watched on the grange’s YouTube channel.
The primary is Aug. 2. Ballots will be mailed July 15.