The three candidates for Sheriff — Gerry Tiffany, Neal Holste and Matt English — repeated familiar themes in a forum Monday, but each took steps to distinguish himself from his opponents.
English, a sheriff’s detective since 2009, said he has the endorsement of current Sheriff Joe Wampler, which Wampler confirmed.
“Matt is my choice,” Wampler said Monday prior to the forum at Columbia Gorge Hotel, hosted by Chamber of Commerce and attended by about 120 people.
English said, “People know that if they come to me to get something done, it will get done. It’s about follow-through. It’s about what can we do to improve our service.”
Tiffany, who has been chief detective since 2000, said he has worked with every agency in the Gorge, and has “a good relationship with all of them,” including Portland Police Bureau and the FBI,” He cited his supervisory certification and middle management training. (Tiffany is English’s supervisor in the HRCSO chain of command.)
“I believe I am the outsider coming in,” said Holste, who is Hood River Chief of Police. “I have a passion, and some new ideas.” Holste started his career with the Sheriff’s Office 18 years ago.
“It has always been my passion to run for sheriff, starting back when I was a reserve deputy,” he said “It has always been a goal to be Sheriff of Hood River County.”
Tiffany said he is “the longest-standing member of the county multi-disciplinary team, which is dealing with child abuse and fatality cases, and I serve on the domestic violence and emergency response teams.”
Holste said he has been interested in law enforcement since he was in high school, and said he has had supervisory roles in jobs he has held since he was 18, and pointed to his extensive volunteer work as a Reserve Deputy with HRCSO before starting his career.
All three candidates have degrees in criminal justice; all three started out either as reserves or starting level positions on marine patrol or corrections.
Here are further comments made by the candidates in Monday’s forum:
Neal Holste noted that while he started with HRCSO including a little over a year as Cascade Locks resident deputy, in 1995-96, he left the HRCSO “with no hard feelings,” after then Hood River Police Chief Rich Younkins offered him a patrol job. “I took the job for monetary reasons, as it paid $500 more a month,” Holste said.
Joining the police department and moving from patrol deputy to sergeant in 2001 and on to chief in 2011 has been a steady learning process, Holste said.
“Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with several bosses and seen both the good and bad, and see the kinds of things you need to support and the things you need to step back and maybe not do. So that’s been a good experience for me, the variety of leadership I have had to work with is a great thing for me.
“I have a vision for some changes and some new ideas for some things that I believe won’t cost us any money but I think will be valuable to the community.
“I have a heart for the youth,” he said, noting his longtime service as coach and work with youth on overseas building projects in Thailand and Guatemala.
“I’d like to see us get involved in the schools a little bit more. We should do more proactive and less reactive things,” Holste said, citing the lunchtime program called Citizenship Awards, started this year, “which allows us to interact with youth, while in uniform.”
He said he wants revive the School Resource Officer program, a multi-agency grant program that was dissolved several years ago.
“It is very important for us to do this within our community,” Holste said.
Gerry Tiffany said he has 21 years in law enforcement and is third in command at HRCSO. He said he has extensive budget and supervisory experience to go with supervisory experience with John Deere before entering the field of law enforcement. It was while working his initial sheriff’s job as corrections/dispatcher that he gained his criminal justice degree. He also cited a long process of learning while working for HRCSO.
“In my 12 years on day shift, I have gotten to know the ins and outs of the department. I have seen it. I’ve done it. There is nothing out there that stumps me, right at the moment. Well, I’m sure there is, there’s always something, but I think I have the confidence to do the job.”
Tiffany proposed a formal volunteer program akin to the Crag Rats mountain rescue group for marine patrol and other needs.
“We have a lot of great volunteers and I’d like to expand on that,” Tiffany said, “so we can have a safer place for people to play.”
Tiffany also advocates adding back the position of narcotics detective, and plans “to provide more patrol coverage for more parts of the county, which can be done with creative scheduling,” he said.
“We can do so without adding a deputy. We can implement it in short order and it can be done.”
He said he supports reviving the School Resource Officer program, “not so much an officer but to give our people the training so they know what’s going on in schools and are able to go in and talk with the students, not just the two detectives, but so everyone can go to a school and have the same kind of training that I did. One of the things that’s so neat about SRO training is a lot of it is free.”
Matt English said that in addition to the sheriff’s endorsement, he has the support of most of the current HRCSO staff.
“Because of my involvement, I’ve always been a leader,” English said, citing doing training within the office, serving as public information officer, assistant volunteer supervisor, and teaching at Police Academy.
“I have never had opportunity to gain sergeant certification but I have pursued every opportunity to learn and to be a leader,” he said. “I have stepped forward and taken things on without being asked.”
“I don’t think people realize how broad the scope of the SO is, from emergency management and marine patrol to search and rescue to civil process. I have had a lot of opportunities to work in those areas, and experience. I’ve taken every leadership opportunity available.”
English said the department should “focus on training, using available resources,” to meet public safety needs.
“We need to build the best qualified employees with the best available training, and give them the tools they need to succeed,” English said.
“We have some excellent relationships established with community partners. We can’t do it all ourselves, so it is absolutely critical we continue those relationships and build on them. It’s just something we have to have to get the job done. I would love to get our (investigative and patrol) positions back and certainly would fight to do that but we’ve got to do some things in the short term.”