PORT ANGELES — An overflow crowd of between 80 and 100 people gathered Tuesday morning in the Clallam County Commissioners meeting room to say goodbye to two longtime Clallam County officials, Sheriff Bill Benedict and County Commissioner Bill Peach.
Benedict attracted a virtual who’s who of Clallam County law enforcement, past and present. He was ending his fourth four-year term after serving the longest tenure of any Clallam County sheriff.
Benedict, 72, was Clallam County sheriff for 16 years. He first was elected in 2006, defeating incumbent Joe Martin and running unopposed in 2010 and 2014 and winning with a large majority against Jim McLaughlin in 2018. He backed Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King, who won election to the post in November.
“You put so much trust in us. We’re going to miss you,” said Undersheriff Ron Cameron. “Thank you for making this the best agency in the state.”
Said Allen: “You and your team made a big difference because of your dedication to a cause. We had a great relationship.”
“I’m here to say goodbye to a friend,” said Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith.
Clallam County District Court I Judge David Neupert said, “I’ve known Bill as a friend and I’m better off for having known you.
“You’ve been able to attract and retain really good people. You’ve left the sheriff’s office in better shape than when you got there.”
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain pointed out that the sheriff’s office is one of less than 70 accredited law enforcement agencies in the state and one of the few accredited jails, adding that this shows the level of respect people have for him.
Commissioner Mark Ozias, a Democrat who represents District 1, said: “It’s my honor today to acknowledge your many years of service,” before presenting Benedict with an etching of the courthouse and a coffee mug.
Benedict said: “I really appreciate the compliments from my peers. Truly, truly, I’ve been blessed with two of the best undersheriffs on the planet,” referring to former Undersheriff Ron Peregrine and current Undersheriff Ron Cameron.
“What a journey,” Benedict said.
“I look forward to being retired,” he added.
He and his wife Kathy were going to load up the recreational vehicle and head down to San Diego and then to Florida, he said.
After the ceremony, an official retirement party for Benedict, who began his career with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office in 1995, and his wife was held in the Emergency Operations Center in the courthouse basement.
Peach, a Forks Republican who lost his re-election bid this November to Democrat Mike French of Port Angeles, had served since 2014 representing District 3, which includes the West End and western Port Angeles.
“This is one time I’ve been looking forward to and not looking forward to,” Ozias said. “There has been one constant, and that has been you. I’ve been longer with you than with anyone else in my professional life.”
“We might have different letters after our names, but we share interests and priorities,” Ozias said.
“You have a heart bigger than anyone I’ve met,” he said. “It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure to be your colleague.”
Said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman and CEO: “Public service is a special calling and you’ve risen to it. I know you care. You’ve been an amazing leader.”
Jeff Bohman, Peninsula Trails Coalition president, said: “I thank you very much for the (Olympic Discovery Trail) and all your other leadership.”
Former Legislative District 24 representative Jim Buck of Joyce said Peach’s service has been “exemplary.”
Peach, 67, received an etching and a coffee mug.
“The county’s future is in good hands because of the quality of its people,” he said.
Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.