PORT TOWNSEND — A Jefferson County sheriff’s citizens’ advisory group that has been meeting for a year has been officially recognized by the county commissioners.
The three Jefferson County commissioners unanimously approved the board Monday. The move will allow members of the board to talk in their official capacity at commission meetings.
The group, made up of community members from Jefferson County, works to strengthen the link between the department and the community and to identify problems and solutions for the sheriff’s office, said Sheriff Dave Stanko.
“Community engagement is vital to our success here, especially with today’s climate and issues with law enforcement,” Stanko told commissioners on Monday.
A citizens advisory board was one of Stanko’s campaign promises when he ran for office in 2014.
“We have a very spread-out county, so it was important for me to get input,” Stanko said.
The board is envisioned as being made up of 15 people, each one representing an area of Jefferson County.
Currently, members represent Brinnon, Marrowstone/Indian Island, Port Hadlock/Irondale, Port Ludlow, Port Townsend, Quilcene, Chimacum, Hoh Tribe, Dabob/Coyle/Toandos, Kala Point, Discovery Bay/Gardiner and Cape George.
There are three open positions, one of which is for a student.
“We wanted to represent different areas and socio-economic strata,” said John Ammeter, a board representative from Port Ludlow.
“The whole idea was representation from different walks of life.”
Already the unofficial board has worked with Washington State University on a staffing study.
The study found that Jefferson County will need seven more deputies by 2020 to keep up with estimated population growth.
“Citizen advisory board members will go to their districts to see how the citizens would like to fund that,” Stanko said.
The focus of the board is to make sure citizens are engaged with local law enforcement so they feel their complaints are being heard and to ensure needs are being met.
“We really are trying to reach out to all areas of the community and find out what’s needed,” said Raul Huerta, a board representative from Port Townsend.
“We want to provide guardianship and service to the citizens of our county.”
The sheriff is able to appoint members to the board but the board will vote for its own chair and vice chair. Anyone is welcome to serve as long as they don’t have criminal backgrounds, since that was deemed a conflict of interest.
To make staggered terms, the board members will be broken up into three groups of five members who will serve for one-, two- or three-year terms.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].