I grew up in Cowlitz County, not Wahkiakum. Like many others, I left home to pursue an education and a successful career. Later in life, my husband and I were able to return to our roots. After living in Portland, Wahkiakum County seemed like "Mayberry" (the l960's era Andy Griffith show) where the sheriff solves problems by drinking coffee with the folks and riding around in the car with the "bubble light" on top. I wish it were so but we're several decades past that type of law enforcement. We'd be naive or stupid to think we don't have serious issues in Wahkiakum County such as drug/ alcohol abuse, burglaries, domestic violence, meth labs and physical assault.
Last fall we lost a community leader and friend to many, Sheriff Jon Dearmore. He understood that our community had changed over time and needed officers who had the experience and training to deal with the problems of today. He wisely chose Mark Howie as his undersheriff because of his 23 years of experience in law enforcement including work as a sergeant and detective. Mark brought the experience and training acquired in a larger police department. He also brought valuable experience in crime prevention and a forward vision - a vision where law enforcement and the community work in partnership. It was a vision they shared.
Nearly a year ago, the commissioners appointed Mark Howie as sheriff because he had the right experience and training to step into the role. As undersheriff for two years, he'd investigated complaints, prepared the department budget, handled many of the daily operations, and was an active member of the community. Although several deputies had served in the sheriff's office for many years, they were not appointed. As Rick Nelson noted in the paper on Nov. 15, 2012, the "New sheriff hits the ground running."
Over this past year, I've seen Sheriff Howie at a number of community events and out on patrol. He is very much in touch with the people of Wahkiakum County and the issues we face. Nearly a year ago at a time of personal grief, he stepped up and provided stability for the sheriff's office and continuity for the community. That's a mark of true leadership.
Sheriff Howie has demonstrated he's responsible for managing a budget of $2.8 million and overseeing 64 personnel, including sworn officers, staff, reserve deputies, Volunteers In Police Services (VIPS), Search and Rescue, and the Citizen's Police Academy. With the additional administrative and management responsibility for the Wahkiakum County Jail and the county's 911 system, the sheriff is one of the most important positions in our county. We need a sheriff with the experience and skills to help lead us forward. We're no longer in "Mayberry" and the office requires more than time in the patrol car. He's a proven leader and that's why I'm voting for Sheriff Howie.