Sheriff's race makes jail, communities hot topics
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — A year ago around this time, two upstanding men vied to be the appointed Snohomish County Sheriff when the position became available, but only one could get the role.
This November, both are back to square off in the
nonpartisan election, although there are underlying political alignments backing each candidate.
One says he can do better than the current sheriff. The other says he’ll keep building the momentum he’s grown the past 12 months with the budget he has available.
Sheriff Ty Trenary was appointed to the position last July from being a Sheriff’s Office Captain when former Sheriff John Lovick became Snohomish County Executive.
The runner-up was Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt.
Jim Upton, who said he’d run for election the day after the County Council’s appointment decision.
Harsh cynics claim Trenary got the position because he appealed to the Democratic-heavy County Council.
Upton has broad-base support among Republicans while local Democrats have endorsed Trenary in the nonpartisan race.
Trenary, from Stanwood, has served 23 years in the Sheriff’s Office and has held practically every position in the Sheriff’s Office during that time.
Upton, a former city of Snohomish police sergeant hailing from Monroe, has 12 years with the Sheriff’s Office. Upton spent 21 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of Command Master Chief.
Both men say connecting with the community is their biggest priority, as well as focusing on the hottest topics locally: the Snohomish County Jail, crime and drugs.
How they’ll lead
Leading the Sheriff’s Office these days has crucial challenges, from fixing the county jail to the regional rising tide of drugs.
Both candidates shared how they would each pursue keeping the office’s motto, “community first, public safety always.”
Incumbent Trenary said he stands for leadership, accountability and community as a means to address the current issues at hand.
“We need to focus on our core mission – community first, public safety always,” Trenary said. “We have got to continually focus on service delivery and neighborhood.”
Trenary said he plans to implement more public accessible programs at local police departments contractually operated by the Sheriff’s Office, such as the Snohomish Police Department.
Upton said he thinks the Sheriff’s Office can do a better job at this under his leadership.
One thing he says should happen is to re-establish more stringent hiring requirements, and enforce education and experience requirements within the promotion structure.
“There’s three things that can improve it and it’s what I stand for – leadership, accountability and fiscal responsibility,” Upton said. “As you break down the leadership, you need to have a vision, of where they want to take the office, and empower the people; we need these attributes. We need to be personally accountable for the citizens. It’s important. For fiscal responsibility: You look at the money we make, about $100 million, in the general fund. I think that we need to be more responsible with that and to give you an idea, you wouldn’t send a plumber in to do drywall in a home you’re building – why do we think we as cops can do everything?”
Snohomish County Jail
With a spate of recent inmate deaths and inmate medical issues at the county jail, the spotlight is blazing on the issue and both candidates said something must be done.
Trenary led changes starting last year by limiting who can be put in jail and increasing medical staffing there. Recently he asked the County Council for funding for 29 more medical staff at the jail.
“We need to focus our efforts on our jail,” Trenary said. “We’ve had several independent audits conducted on the jail and my job has been to implement those recommendations and better treat inmates. We’ve taken the jail head-on and have been transparent as we can.”
Upton is critical on this and said Trenary is not handling it right because of a dearth of qualified personnel running the jail.
“None of these guys that are running the jail have any training for running a correctional facility,” Upton said, adding, “First and foremost, we need to put somebody in there that knows what they’re doing. ... Instead of audits I would have someone with experience in running a jail come in and do an audit, stay behind and make sure the recommendations are prioritized.”
The jail went through three major audits last year, including one Trenary requested by Pierce County jail officials. The other two audits were requested by Lovick conducted by the National Institute of Corrections, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Trenary has followed through on many of the recommendations, releasing a slate of changes last fall.
Both candidates have experience in combating crime, and were quick to flex those muscles during interviews.
“We prioritize standards, patrol standards – we continually look that we have enough people,” Trenary said. “Our drug-related thefts and burglaries are on the rise and from talking to inmates (at the jail) trying to get a handle on why addicts are taking things – it’s confirmed that they’re stealing to support their habit. ... Law enforcement is not the problem, it’s the public; What we need to focus on to combat the problem is more education (public and schools) about drugs, promote the drug-take backs, and look for ways for increasing the opportunities for rehab. Quite frankly, it’s going to take good old fashioned police work – fighting crime and holding people accountable. But, in order to move forward successfully is getting people involved. It’s going to take the community helping out law enforcement.”
Upton shares similar views on emphasizing community action in crime prevention.
“First and foremost for me is community,” Upton said. “I’m spending a lot of time out in the community. The No. 1 thing we need to do is reconnect with our community, we need to regain trust of citizens.”
He continued: “We’re not necessarily proactive, we’re reactive. We need to get the citizens involved. We need to get info from them for help — at every level. Neighborhood watches, kids in school — and get communicating with them.”
Upton also shared a critical view of drug addicts.
“In my view, it’s not a drug problem, not a gun problem, it’s a people problem. It’s us as a civilization… I don’t see it as a drug problem. We live in a country of entitlement. I grew up, started working since I was 13 years old, and nobody owes me anything, I work, I earn it. I think that we’ve lost that. We live in a time of entitlement. You read, ‘It’s not my fault, I’m addicted to drugs,’ we all have a bunch of excuses. You’re an adult, you need to be held accountable.”
Who They Are
Both candidates stated they are family men.
Trenary began his career in law enforcement 25 years ago as a reserve officer with Eatonville Police Department. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1991 conducting a new form of policing called community policing.
“That was probably one of the best things that probably happened to me,” Trenary said. “I worked in the Marysville area and was truly dealing with quality of life issues. For me, it’s been a passion – I’ve been very fortunate.”
Both men say they are more than qualified to be County Sheriff due to their many held positions over time.
“I am willing to take on the burden of the job, and place the qualified people where they need to be,” Upton said. “I may not have a lot of endorsements, but hey, the only endorsements I need are from the citizens, because they are who I respond to. I’m a guy that wants to do it for the right reasons.”
Upton has raised $5,602 as of last week for his campaign.
Trenary’s war chest stands about five times larger at $29,991 as of last week.
“I’m running because I absolutely love this office; and I love this Sheriff’s Office and enjoy being part of the community,” Trenary said.
Trumpeting his rise within the Sheriff’s Office, he said, “I have the ability to understand almost the entire organization – and that’s just not rhetoric, that’s talk and walk.”