Seeking a more peaceful place to live, Mark and Deb Howie purchased property in Cathlamet in 2006.
At that time, Mark Howie was a sergeant in the Tukwila Police Department, serving the small city of 19,100 people on the south side of Seattle, and Deb drove school buses.
Early on, Howie met Jon Dearmore, undersheriff in the Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Department. The two struck up a friendship and found they had many common interests.
The Howies had purchased a house on Columbia Street and a building on Cathlamet's Main Street. They opened an antique shop in one of the store fronts. They kept their jobs in Tukwila and commuted back and forth. In 2009, they converted the antique store into a coffee shop, Howie's Corner, and Deb soon settled full time in Cathlamet to work the shop.
At that time, too, Dearmore decided to run for sheriff as his boss, Sheriff Dan Bardsley, was retiring.
"After the 2010 primary, he came to me and asked if I would be interested in the job of undersheriff," Howie said in an interview this week.
Howie was interested, and when Dearmore won the election, he left Tukwila and brought his policing career to Cathlamet, becoming undersheriff in December, 2010.
"Jon talked about serving two terms, and then I thought I would consider my options," Howie said. "We both would have been old enough to draw our pensions."
Now, with Dearmore's sudden death, Howie finds himself holding the job he thought he might consider in another six years. County commissioners last week appointed him to fill the vacant position; it will be up for election next year.
Howie joined the Tukwila Police Force in 1990. He had earned a bachelor degree in 1989 from the University of Washington in Marine Transportation and Public Administration and graduated from the Washington Basic Law Enforcement Academy in 1990.
He rose through the ranks and was Major Crimes Detective Sergeant when he left. In the position, he supervised nine detectives and two civilians who investigated felony crimes.
He had served four years as a patrol sergeant, supervising a squad of eight officers in their daily patrol duties.
He had also served four years as detective on a regional narcotics task force, five years in crime prevention programs involving residents, businesses and landlords. He had served three years as a patrol field training officer. He was a 12-year member of the Valley Civil Disturbance Unit as a squad leader and sergeant overseeing a 20-member specialty ammunitions response team. He was certified to use chemical agents and specialty impact ammunitions such as bean bags.
He has completed FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association certification and has received several commendation awards.
In his career in Tukwila, Howie and his officers were involved in high profile incidents. The Valley Civil Disturbance Unit joined other police forces to face protesters when the World Trade Organization met in Seattle.
Howie led the response when a man shot two people at the Westfield Tukwila Mall, killing one. He coordinated the activities of responding departments--taking care of the injured, sequestering witnesses, sending teams through the mall to apprehend the suspect. The suspect, Howie added, had fled with the panicked people who fled at the shooting; he was traced to Portland and arrested there.
Howie was also the officer in charge of investigating three officer involved shootings.
As undersheriff, Howie has handled many of the sheriff's duties of supervision, managing daily operations, investigating complaints, updating policies and procedures, and working with county commissioners and other departments on budgetary and financial issues.
He was a grant writer in Tukwila, and since coming to Wahkiakum, he has submitted successful applications for two, including one that is funding the reborn Emergency Management Department.
He has also joined the board of directors of the Wahkiakum Community Network and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Cathlamet.
"I'm not planning any major changes for now," Howie said this week. "I want to continue the projects that Jon was working on--we shared many of the same ideas and goals.
"I just want to provide stability and continuity for the community."
Community relations are a part of that plan, Howie said, and he will continue to operate the Westend office at the Grays River Valley Center. He is considering options for appointing an undersheriff but won't do that till the end of the year.
"Jon's sudden death was a big enough change, and we are still reeling from the shock of that painful event," Howie said. "To those who don't know me, I am a personable, approachable sheriff who treats others with respect and fairness. I try to be professional in everything I do, and I have an open door policy to all citizens and my staff. I care about my people, and I care deeply about the safety and security of the people who reside, work and visit our county."