Jefferson sheriff candidates underscore importance of experience in forum
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Port Townsend High School secretary Jan Boutilier, left, and librarian Ann Healy-Raymond check out the school’s new website, which will be live by the first day of classes Sept. 2. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — Law enforcement experience should be the deciding factor in the Jefferson County sheriff's race Nov. 4, both general election candidates said at a forum last week.

“Jefferson County deserves leadership with experience, knowledge and a record of proven results,” said David Stanko, 66, a Cape George resident who retired as a lieutenant from the Fullerton, Calif., Police Department in 2004 after serving 27 years.

“I have an unblemished career, and the badge that I am honored to carry reflects what I represent: integrity, honor, character, courage and authority, but with responsibility and accountability,” he said.

Wendy Davis, the top runner in the primary elimination contest with 40.4 percent of the vote, said her experience makes her the better candidate for the four-year term.

“My background and education have much better prepared me to be your next sheriff,” said Davis, 47, a former member of the Bremerton and Poulsbo police departments who is now a human resources officer for Port Ludlow Associates.

“My opponent's public safety career terminated over 10 years ago when he left Fullerton, Calif., to come to Jefferson County for retirement,” said the Port Ludlow resident.

“The demographics, law enforcement response, criminal laws and procedures, and agency staffing levels are much different in Fullerton than they are in rural Jefferson County,” Davis said.

About 45 people heard from law enforcement and judicial candidates, among others, at a forum hosted by the Jefferson County Fire Commissioner and Secretary Association, an organization of fire department employees, at the Quilcene Fire Station on Thursday night.

Although open to the public, the forum was not announced to any but fire department employees. It was moderated by Peggy Ware, secretary of the Brinnon Fire Department.

Each candidate was allowed a three-minute statement followed by five minutes of audience questions.

It represented the first forum after the primary for several contested races, including sheriff, prosecuting attorney, county commissioner, District Court judge and auditor.

Jefferson County Public Utility District candidates, who also appeared, had participated in an Aug. 13 forum in Chimacum.

Both Davis and Stanko said they would like to fill the position of undersheriff, which has remained vacant since 2009, when Tony Hernandez assumed office.

Hernandez did not run for re-election and since has accepted the position of police chief of Milton, near Tacoma. His last day is Friday.

“It is my preference to have an undersheriff,” Davis said. “I think it's an important piece of the puzzle that has been missing in the sheriff's department.

“There are some internal issues I'm aware of, and I think we need to get a handle on them, so having an undersheriff would create a better system to deal with these problems.”

Stanko said: “I heard rumors of internal problems, but I don't have any personal knowledge of those.

“I want to know what the priorities are before I take any action, and whether I go inside or outside for an undersheriff depends on how I assess the department.”

Stanko declared for the office in May but suspended his primary election campaign in June after the Jefferson County Democratic Party endorsed Davis.

His name remained on the ballot, and he resumed campaigning July 22.

During the primary race, Davis' personnel records from the Poulsbo Police Department were scrutinized.

They showed that her termination was recommended twice. After the mayor intervened in both cases, Davis continued working for the department until she resigned in April 2013.

Stanko's personnel records were not available, the Fullerton department's policy being to shred records five years after an employee leaves, said current chief Dan Hughes, who mentioned that Stanko received the department's Medal of Valor in 1991.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans, 62, who is seeking a second term, and challenger Mike Haas, 53, both expressed support for alternative sentencing such as Drug Court and Mental Health Court.

“We try to help people in Drug Court, but we only have them for 24 months, when the [drug abuse] has a 20-year head start,” said Rosekrans, a Democrat and former Jefferson County deputy prosecutor who won election in 2010.

“It could be bad grades, bad DNA, bad whatever you've got. I can turn you around and give you some of the tools, but you have one shot at Drug Court,” he added.

“If you re-offend, you don't get another chance.”

Haas, a Democrat and private Port Townsend attorney who has worked as a prosecutor, agreed that Drug Court is not easy.

“You don't make it through unless you really want it,” he said.

“You are going to have people fail in Drug Court, Mental Health Court and all kinds of diversion programs, but it is worth a shot.”

Most of the county's private property crimes are drug-related, said Haas, who was the front-runner in the primary, garnering 57.5 percent of the vote.

“So the best way to put the kibosh on property crimes is to get people out of their use of drugs and alcohol,” he added.

“We hope it works. When it doesn't, we just have to use a bigger hammer,” Haas said.

District Court Judge Jill Landes, 64, who is seeking a third term, was enthusiastic about Mental Health Court.

“My proudest moment is having presided over Mental Health Court for the last 18 months,” she said.

“We can really help these people,” she said. “They are not criminals who happen to be mentally ill but are mentally ill people who happened to have committed a crime.

“They need the help and support they get from this court.”

Landes also said diversion saves money in incarceration costs.

Challenger Cheryl Potebnya, 61, a former Jefferson County deputy prosecutor, emphasized her leadership style, saying it “is more collaborative.

“I am not a 'my way or the highway' kind of gal,” she said.

“I listen to the ideas of others because I feel the more information people have, the better off they are.”

The judge race is nonpartisan.

Also appearing at the forum were county commissioner candidates Kathleen Kler, a Democrat, and Dan Toepper with no party preference; auditor candidates Judy Maves-Klatt and Roseanne Carroll, both Democrats; and nonpartisan PUD commissioner candidates Tony De Leo and Kenneth Collins.

Unopposed candidates Jeff Chapman, running for assessor, and Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon, who is seeking a third term, also addressed the group.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 24. 2014 7:27AM
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