Monday brings the last scheduled public forum before ballots go out for the May 15 Primary Election.
The event will be from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, on Westcliff Drive.
Scheduled to appear are the two men running for District Attorney — incumbent John Sewell and challenger Brian Aaron — and the three sheriff candidates, who are all running for the first time.
They are Matt English, detective with the sheriff’s office, Neal Holste, Hood River police chief, and Gerry Tiffany, detective sergeant with the sheriff’s office.
Monday’s event is hosted by the chamber of commerce, the Columbia Gorge Hotel and NW Natural. Free appetizers will be served, and a no-host bar will be open.
Ballots will be mailed to voters on April 27 and are due in the hands of the county Elections Department by 8 p.m. May 15.
The sheriff candidates spoke Tuesday at a forum at Cascade Locks City Hall sponsored by Cascade Locks Lions. About 50 people attended. (Sewell and Aaron also spoke, though they were attending as audience members and had not been scheduled to address the group.)
Here are highlights of comments made Tuesday by Tiffany, Holste and English:
n Holste said he has “worked within the process of the city budget” since 2002, and is now solely responsible for developing his department’s proposed budget.
n Tiffany noted that he is third in command at the sheriff’s office and he has been directly involved in or supervised every felony case investigated in the county since 2000.
n English said of the sheriff’s office that “there’s a great group of people in the office and the thing we have in common is a lot of forward thinking and trying to move ahead; and with that there are a lot of unique ideas and ways of doing things differently that maybe we’ve never thought of before.”
The candidates were asked about the training and experience “that sets you apart” for leading the essential duties of the sheriff’s office: civil process, the jail, 9-1-1 and search and rescue.
English: “If you’re looking for a title in me; no I don’t have one. I am currently a detective, and have been a patrol deputy. In my time there has never been a sergeant position open; but I haven’t let that hold me back or let that stop me. I’m not going to be an observer. I’ve tried to do everything I can that’s available to me.
“If you want a sergeant and the training that comes along with that, I haven’t had the opportunity. I’ve done search and rescue, incident command and have served as public information officer, and as far as the jail goes I haven’t really had any involvement with the jail. The sheriff’s office sits on NORCOR; I understand our role there is that the sheriff basically is an advisor on that board.
“One of the major things we’re in charge of is emergency management and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some involvement with that in my capacity in public information, and having worked with the emergency manager, who is under the umbrella of the sheriff; we have a lot of responsibilities and if there is any disaster, Hood River County has actually done a good job of preparing itself.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work side by side with the sheriff and emergency manager and I understand what our responsibilities are there. 9-1-1 and dispatch are a really big responsibility. It is run by a user board, as 9-1-1 is taxing district overseen by law enforcement and fire department personnel and the sheriff has a role on that,” said English.
Holste: “Regarding the jail, it has changed a lot in my time, now part of a regional jail and it’s a group of several sheriffs who get together and act as advisors. The actual role of the sheriff has changed in that he doesn’t have the power say for everything; it’s a group of people who advise each other and that’s probably a good thing; the change on the jail side of it.
“As far as search and rescue goes, I started my career with the sheriff’s office. I’ve done marine patrol, body searches on the waterways. I’m familiar with and I understand the job, and now in my police role, we have an Emergency Operations Plan within the city of Hood River, a buy-in we follow as far as protocol, and we work with (county emergency services manager) Karl Tesch, and the sheriff and police are now working with him on grants to improve our response.
“As far as civil, it is being ran very well ran at this point. I don’t see that as a burden or an issue for the sheriff to take on. As far as what do you have as far as leadership skills, I’ve worked myself up from reserve deputy volunteering all of my time to now police chief, the highest position you can hold in the city of Hood River, and it’s a position that requires middle management and supervisory certification, something you have to have to hold the position,” Holste said.”
Tiffany: “First and foremost, the sheriff has to maintain a jail; you don’t have to have patrol deputies on the highway, but you have to maintain a jail, you have to have search and rescue and you have to have civil service.
“NORCOR is now pushed off into Wasco County but it doesn’t make it any less important. We citizens of Hood River County give NORCOR over $1.3 million a year just to run their jail so I think the sheriff has a real important role there just to make sure we get what we pay for.
“I think another issue is doomsday scenario: the budget gets cut big time. We have to cut road deputies. That’s the only place we (have for cutting) because NORCOR is off by itself; that means we cut money from NORCOR –– that means they’re going to be cut back and they can’t have enough people there.
“So it’s very important to stay on top of those kind of things and the training I’ve had especially in middle management and command college stuff, is all budgetary about how go out and look for grants, so I think that training there moves me up to where I can actually understand how that system works,” Tiffany said.