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County Council delays appointing new sheriff

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- Two internal candidates vying to be Snohomish County sheriff promised to manage finances responsibly, address nagging problems at the jail and be good communicators.
Sheriff's Capt. Ty Trenary and detective Sgt. James Upton sat for separate interviews with the County Council on Tuesday. The council could have made the appointment afterward, but opted to wait until its regular meeting scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
"What you want in a sheriff is someone who understands the importance of what the county needs, not just what the sheriff's office needs," Trenary told council members.
Said Upton: "I believe that we need leadership, we need leadership to step up, to give a vision and to give a direction, not only for the (sheriff's) office but for the citizens around us."
The appointment process follows a political chain reaction among Snohomish County leaders. It started when Aaron Reardon stepped down as county executive at the end of May after a series of scandals, most recently involving him and two members of his staff.
Then-Sheriff John Lovick was appointed by the County Council to replace Reardon. Lovick, a retired state trooper and former state lawmaker, had been in the second year of his second term as sheriff.
Undersheriff Tom Davis is the acting sheriff until the appointment, which he is not seeking.
Trenary, 47, of Stanwood, has worked for the sheriff's office since 1991.
During his interview, he emphasized the leadership experience he gained from 2008 to 2012, while serving as police chief for the city of Stanwood, which contracts with the county for police services.
"Up to that point, I had been working in the sheriff's office and focusing on sheriff's office stuff. In Stanwood, I had to step outside of that," he said. "As department head, my role was to worry about streets, to worry about landscaping projects, and I had to learn the value of economic development."
Trenary, former leader of the union that represents sheriff's deputies, also has worked as a sheriff's office training manager and as a patrol supervisor.
He received a state lifesaving award for his role in giving CPR to a 16-year-old Stanwood girl rescued from the Stillaguamish River in 2009 after crashing her car.
Upton, 53, of Monroe, is a sergeant responsible for supervising detectives who investigate property crimes based out of the sheriff's office South Precinct.
Upton joined the sheriff's office in 2003. In 2006, the office awarded him a certificate of merit.
Before becoming a county deputy, Upton worked for more than three years with city of Snohomish police force, where he attained the rank of sergeant. Upton served for 21 years the U.S. Navy, including in supervisory roles.
In his interview, Upton talked about the importance of attracting and retaining quality employees.
"We need to make the sheriff's office healthy again, we need to get busy with recruiting, we need to better our morale, so we can in fact recruit people from other agencies," he said.
The sheriff is responsible for law enforcement in unincorporated Snohomish County and running the county jail. Combined, those operations include a staff of about 700 and an annual budget upwards of $100 million.
A looming concern for the new sheriff will be the jail, where at least seven inmates have died since 2010. The federal government earlier this month agreed to conduct a review of jail operations and medical services. Lovick in March requested that assistance from the National Institute of Corrections.
The sheriff's post is nonpartisan, so candidates applied directly to the council. The appointment process for the executive worked differently because it's a partisan office and required local officers from Reardon's Democratic Party to recommend three nominees to the council.
Voters will cast ballots in a 2014 special election to determine who serves out the remaining year of the term. A regular election for the four-year term is scheduled in 2015.
Both Upton and Trenary plan to run in those elections.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;
Story tags » County CouncilSheriffLocal

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