Election 2018: Meet your candidates for Okanogan County Sheriff

Editor’s Note: We asked all six candidates for Okanogan County Sheriff to answer a few questions for our readers, receiving responses from Tony Hawley, Court Creighton and Michael Blake. We did not hear back from Steve Brown or Jeff Koplin. The top two vote getters in the Aug. 7, 2018 Primary Election will continue on to the November General Election. All six candidates say they prefer the Republican Party.

Michael Blake

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Michael Blake

Michael Blake

I’m Michael Blake and I’m 50 years old. I am married to my beautiful wife Jessica, and we have two grown children between us. I was born in Seattle and thankfully, my family moved here to Okanogan County when I was 14.

I was raised to work hard, honor my parents, the Country, our Flag, and most importantly God. I am active in my church and I served a two-year mission.

I started my working career as a mechanic. As always, I wanted to excel within my profession and so I sought training and education achieving many certifications.

I became interested in law enforcement and began by volunteering as a reserve. I was then hired full time in 1996 and I now have 22 years of well-rounded law enforcement experience working for the Tribe, City of Omak, and the Sheriff’s Office.

During my career, my focus has been on obtaining and providing quality training. I have many certifications and accomplishments that I am proud of, including co-founding our regional SWAT team and continuing as an operator and trainer.

I have taken firearms instruction very seriously. I teach locally, for the state, the Police Academy, and I certify and train other instructors along with spearheading our public classes.

I ran Search & Rescue for seven years with over 100 volunteers and have many wonderful experiences helping to save lives.

Not only do I have Law enforcement experience but having served as Mayor of Okanogan for 14 years, I gained Administrative experience, developed and ran budgets and negotiated many contracts with 2 unions.

I worked with local, state, and federal agencies. I worked with state legislators, and I’ve lobbied for local interests in Olympia.

I have always had a strong connection with the public. I have volunteered for most of my life, including Boy Scouts, the American Red Cross, Reserve Police Officer, Board of Adjustment, Regional Transportation, Small Cities Advisory Board, and even teaching Sunday school.

I teach free public classes including firearms safety and self-defense, Active Shooter response to schools and major employers. On my own time, I teach Self-Defense awareness for women, security for seniors, and I am currently the Okanogan County Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

Why you want to be elected?

The reason I am seeking this position is that I want to meld my administrative, political, and law enforcement experience in the Office of the Sheriff so that I can serve you, the citizens of this county and give back to this community that has given me so much.

What are the three most important issues facing the office?

  1. Let’s talk about the three biggest issue facing the Sheriff’s Office. One is the number of Deputies we have available. If we are able to provide more Deputies, then we will be better equipped to combat Opioids and other drugs, property crime, DUI’s and the other issues facing our community. I want to combine grants, creative budgeting, and streamlining our office in ways that will give us more patrol and attention to the issues we face.
  2. A specific to a segment of crime that is paramount to deter are the opioids and drugs that lead to overdose deaths, property crimes and other tragic results. I want to utilize all the available resources we have, from the drug task force, patrol deputies, the courts and the jail. I want to have quality training to be more effective and efficient in our investigations of these crimes and secure good prosecutions. On the other side of it, I want to work with resources such as our Drug court program. New Start Clinic and Family Health Centers Suboxone services as well as Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare Substance Use services for Inpatient and outpatient treatment to aid in recovery efforts. I want to work in the schools and with the Okanogan County Community Coalition to prevent drug use with our youth and assist in setting an example for our youth on making valuable life choices. Combatting the ill effects of drugs is something we can all work on together.
  3. Life choices of our youth and support of Law Enforcement needs to be changed generationally. My many years of working with the youth through the scouting program has taught me that contact with youth teaching respect and values goes a long way in life. We need to make contact with these kids like the Brewster Police Department does through the Boys and Girls Club there. I want to get into the grade schools and Teach a RESPECT program that gives value to themselves and others to help prevent bullying. I want to channel the teenagers into productive activities through a Police Cadet Program, and finally, for the adults, I want to have a strong volunteer program that will include a Posse or Civilian Assistance Program (CAP) as well as a Reserve Deputy program for patrol assistance. If we have these programs in place, we can help with the bullying problem, help with making good life choices and it will help with providing a healthy outlet for youth. The perception of law enforcement will improve as they are able to interact with us and it will be a huge benefit with gaining good recruits to fill our ranks from local men and women who are inspired to be officers from these programs.

Kevin Newport

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Kevin Newport

Kevin Newport

My name is Kevin Newport and I have lived in Okanogan County since 1983. I graduated from Brewster High School in 1988. I am now an Omak resident. I have been married to my beautiful and loving wife Crystal Newport for 26 years and live in the same house since being married. I have 4 grown kids and 10 grandkids. We run a successful small business rental company named Jumps R Us Inflatables. We rent bouncy houses for private parties and such on the side. At one point me, my wife and my two adult daughters were involved in the River Valley Soccer Club. I was president of over 400 plus kids playing recreational soccer as well as took on ther role of coach as did my wife and daughters. I have since retired from that to focused on my job and family.

I served 8 years in the Army and attained the rank of sergeant. I have an honorable discharge. I currently work for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office as a field deputy. I am a 27 plus year veteran deputy for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. I am currently the longest serving active member of the department. I started my career in 1991 at the age of 21. My entire law enforcement career has been spent with Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office serving you the people of Okanogan County. I have tried to do this with the highest levels of honor and integrity. I am confident that anyone who knows me would say the same.

During my law enforcement career with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office I have served in a wide variety of agency programs and positions to include Drug Task Force Supervisor/Detective, (SWAT) Special Response Team Leader, Assistant Team Leader and Operator, K9 Handler, Clandestine Laboratory Operator, Reserve Coordinator, Field training Officer, Guild President and Guild Vice President. I have also worked in every geographical area of the county from Oroville to Pateros and from Washington Pass to Coulee Dam and the rural parts of the county in between. I have a good working relationship with all other agencies that work within Okanogan County.

Why do you want to be elected?

I am seeking the office of Sheriff as I am truly convinced that it is time for a new generation in law enforcement leadership to step up and lead the dedicated men and women of the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and this great community of Okanogan that everyone here calls home. When it comes to leadership I subscribe to the pretty simple philosophy “Lead by Example” and “Lead from the Front.” I believe that a true leader is someone who is able to give direction and is also able and willing to do that very same task(s) if needed. I also believe that a true leader should not only strive to re-enforce accountability and positive work ethics through discipline and counseling when needed within the agency but should also offer up encouragement and praise when warranted. This will reenforce positive ethics, morals and values. When leadership practices this philosophy it will, in turn, have an overall positive effect on the agency, its personnel and the community that we protect and serve. I will strive to build strong relationships between the community and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office using those very same philosophies.

What are the three most important issues facing the office?

  1. The first big issue is the ever increasing drug epidemic plaguing this county and eroding family values. With my 8 years as a drug task force detective and 2 years as supervisor I have first-hand knowledge of the drug problem plaguing this county. Currently there is a lack of resources committed to the enforcement side of this problem. I will move to strengthen the local drug task force from its current dismal state regarding manpower and vigorously enforce all drug laws currently on the books using the sheriff’s office and drug task force to do so. I will do this to send a very strong message to criminals that our communities will not tolerate these drugs or people who push them onto our streets. I will also be a supporter of rehabilitation programs for first offenders while at the same time having the clear understanding that Okanogan County cannot rehab its way out of this problem. Strict enforcement has to be one of the elements for success.
  2. A second big issue facing the sheriff’s office is shrinking budgets and a growing county. It’s no secret that money is always an issue when it comes to trying to run any agency with any level of effectiveness. In these recent years county budgets has been getting smaller while the workload placed upon the county has been getting greater. It is a balancing act on how to provide the highest level of services without going broke in the process. It’s not an easy task. However, it can be done. That is why my solution as sheriff would be to go back into the budget and try and streamline where and how the money is spent. I would also immediately move to strike up a positive work relationship with the Okanogan County Commissioners in attempting to identify and address any budget shortfalls in an attempt to continue the same level of services as provided now or increase services where possible and needed. The collaborative work between the sheriff’s office, the Commissioners and the public is what will need to happen to ensure the sheriff’s office continues to operate and provide an acceptable level of services to the public.
  3. A third big issue facing the sheriff’s office is a lack of resources or the use of resources inefficiently. I plan to “re-align” the sheriff’s office field division to streamline its efforts and at the same time put more personnel back on the street where our primary obligation lies in serving the public. We need to do this to bolster our ability to handle the ever increasing calls for service. My first task to accomplish this is to ensure everyone is being utilized to the utmost of their ability. Assignment and job description. That is why I will require the Sheriff, Undersheriff and Chief Criminal Deputy to actually handle calls for service when not directly engaged in administrative duties. I am also going to downsize the detectives from 3 detectives to 2 detectives and assign the Chief Criminal Deputy to oversee their caseload. I plan on converting this third detective position back to a field deputy position. I am also going to, through attrition, convert an administrative sergeant position back to a field deputy position. I will then quickly move to re-define what calls for service the field deputies will handle vs. which calls for service detectives will handle. I am going to require detectives to handle ALL major crime investigations so as to free up the field deputies to be first responders as they should be responding to in progress calls while detectives handle the more complex and time consuming investigations. This, in turn, should cut down the response times to calls for service in some cases by bolstering the number of uniformed officers working the street. These freed up deputies could also be utilized in the drug task force to help out and, in turn, bolster their numbers so as to allow the task force to conduct more and bigger investigations against those drug dealers pushing their poison on our streets.

Court Creighton

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Court Creighton

Court Creighton

I’m Court Creighton. My wife and I are long-time residents of the Methow Valley and are enjoying raising our five children in the county. I’m a first responder, having been a volunteer firefighter for nearly 15 years. I’ve been Station Lieutenant, and was promotedto Captain for over 7 years, responsible for the safety and leadership of my team of firefighters. I’m a business owner in the technology sector and have been involved there since the earlydays of the internet. I also have construction experience in many trades, in addition to operating heavy equipment.

Why do you want to be elected?

I decided to run for the office because I wanted to bring the people’s concerns and issues to the forefront. I hope to bring more transparency to the office, and build better communication and connections with the communities of our county, from the average citizen, to our valuable community organizations, to our schools and youth. I believe I bring a different perspective and skillset to the position of Okanogan County Sheriff, and can use this to think outside of the box for solutions to the issues facing us. I care deeply about this community, and I want to serve and protect you as your Sheriff.

What are the three most important issues facing the office?

  1. RESPONSE TIMES. We live in a very large county, and it can often take a while for responses to calls because the responding deputy is located on the opposite side of the county and has a long travel time. With the benefit of my career experience in technology, I will bring an analytical approach to this problem, including using data analysis and mapping to improve the efficiency of deputy shift schedules, patrol routes, and assigned areas with the goal of improving the response times to calls in the underserved areas of the county.
  2. TRAINING. Something I am also concerned about is the lack of investment in training. Providing ongoing training is an investment in our deputies. But last year, there was a minimal $10,000 provided in the budget for training. That’s not a lot of investment for the nearly 3.8 million dollar budget of the administrative & investigations portion of the Sheriff’s Office. I believe the current priority level for training should be re-evaluated. I think that one of the first additional training investments should be de-escalation training. This training helps officers with how to handle people who are not responding normally, who are mentally ill, on drugs, or suicidal, without trapping themselves into a position where deadly force is necessary. Lack of such training is an enormous potential liability for the county, and taxpayers will ultimately bear the burden of any tragic incidents that might occur. Then, there’s the negative effects that such an incident would have on the community, as well as the trust held by the people of the county in the Sheriff’s Office.
  3. BUDGET. The biggest challenge will always be budget-related, and all other issues are tied directly to it. Because the millions of dollars that make up the Sheriff’s Office budget come from taxpayers, they must be used responsibly and we must squeeze as much mileage out of them as possible, without always coming back for more. I intend to leverage my skills to do that effectively, while providing the best service possible to the people of the county.

Tony Hawley

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Tony Hawley

Tony Hawley

I am a graduate of Okanogan High School and was raised on a small cattle ranch. I served 4 years Active Duty United States Marine Corps, where I earned the Non-Commissioned rank of Corporal. I was hired to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office in March 1995 to serve as a Corrections Deputy. In December 1996, I was hired as a Patrol Deputy. I have worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 23 years total. The past 6 years I have been a Patrol Sergeant and in charge of many special project; Grant writing and management, Commander of the Special Response Team, Field Training Coordinator, Collision Reconstruction, Drug Recognition Expert Instructor, and DUI Court team member, along with supervising my squad.

I am currently an elected Okanogan School Board Director and have been since 2015. I have earned my Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership along with my AA and BS degrees while working as a Patrol Deputy.

I am divorced and have three children, two of which are still school age.

Why do you want to be elected?

In order to work to strengthen the training the patrol deputies receive on drug culture and crimes. I want to have the entire patrol division working together to reduce criminal activity instead of having the focus a few crimes. The Sheriff’s Office needs to work with all the stakeholders of the county need to be brought in to assist the Sheriff’s Office with curbing criminal activity in the community.

I intend to have an administration, who will also be involved in performing the investigation duties of the office. My point of view on this is many of our community’s ranchers, farmers, and business owners are required to lead their personnel while also working alongside them. I feel the Sheriff’s office administration is not exempt from this need. It not only will keep me in touch with the needs of the community, but will also provide more patrols in the community with no increase in costs.

What are the three most important issues facing the office?

  1. The safety in our schools needs to be addressed. We have not had any major violence issues as other areas of the nation have, but we as a community need to work to address the security of the schools before we are facing the same impacts. I will explore starting School Resource Deputy program working with the schools to bring more opportunities for kids to have positive contacts with Law Enforcement.
  2. The drug issues in the county have exploded. I want to have a core group of detectives at the Narcotics Task Force, while allowing patrol deputies to assist and learn more about the investigations and drug cultures in order to have the entire Sheriff’s Office more knowledgeable and equipped to deal with the crimes and criminals directly related to drug abuse.
  3. I will work with the county board of commissioners to increase the personnel available for the sheriff’s office. Having the proper staffing is necessary to be able to patrol this large county as well as to be able to conduct proper and complete investigations once the issue has been reported. If we are continually having our deputies responding to calls they are not afforded the time required to investigate and solve the issue. Adding a few deputies to the patrol division will allow them to have the time to conduct the investigations properly. The need to add some additional deputies will also assist in the near future when the office is going to see many personnel reach the point of their career they will be eligible to retire. This could create a staffing issue if we do not plan ahead to be able to reduce the impact on services and safety for the county and the personnel.
  4. The communications system utilized by Law Enforcement, Fire, and Medical across the county is aging. As we all know electronics and communications equipment becomes outdated quickly. The cost of a complete upgrade is daunting and we cannot afford to wait until it is an absolute dire need before making a plan for action to upgrade the system for our emergency services.