This story previously stated an incorrect figure for the amount of campaign contributions for Mike Hartnett. The amount has been corrected in this version.
WENATCHEE — Brian Burnett touts his endorsements and his campaign contributions.
Mike Harum and Mike Hartnett talk up their experience in law enforcement.
Party affiliation: Republican.
Occupation: Chelan County sheriff’s deputy.
Education: 1985 graduate of Cascade High School in Leavenworth; 1997 graduate of the Reserve Officers Academy.
Experience: Corrections officer in the Chelan County Regional Justice Center jail in 1998; field deputy for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in 1999; promoted to patrol corporal in 2004; promoted to patrol sergeant in 2006; resigned in 2007 to work at a family business in Idaho; rehired as a field deputy in 2008.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Occupation: Retired sergeant with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office
Education: Attended Wenatchee Valley College for two years; graduate of the Corrections Officers Academy, the Reserve Officers Academy and the Basic Law Enforcement Academy.
Experience: U.S. Air Force, three years active duty and eight years with the Washington Air Guard and the Air Force Reserves; dispatcher/jailer for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in 1979, the last five years as a supervisor; patrol officer for the county in 1990; promoted to detective in 1996; promoted to sergeant in 2007; retired in May.
Party affiliation: Republican
Occupation: Chelan County sheriff.
Education: 1975 graduate of Wenatchee High School; attended Wenatchee Valley College, Olympic Community College in Bremerton and Central Washington University, taking public administration classes.
Experience: Dispatcher-jailer for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in 1975; sheriff’s deputy in 1980; promoted to sergeant in 1992; promoted to chief inspector in 1995; returned to being a patrol sergeant in 1998 after an unsuccessful bid for the sheriff’s position; elected sheriff in 2002 and in 2006.
All three are running for the Chelan County sheriff position now held for two terms by Harum. The top two vote-getters in the primary election Aug. 17 will move on to the general election on Nov. 2.
By at least two standards, Burnett is outdistancing his opponents. He has raised $31,642 in campaign funds compared to $21,673 for Harum and $9,507 for Hartnett. And Burnett has endorsements from four local groups: the Chelan County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the Wenatchee Police Guild, the RiverCom Dispatcher’s Guild and the Chelan County Regional Jail Deputies Association.
But Harum and Hartnett want the voting public to look beyond all that.
“I think Brian lacks the experience,” Hartnett said.
“Brian just talks about his character but not specifically about what he is going to do and how he is going to do it,” Harum said.
But other factors are at play too. Name recognition “is huge” in a political race, said Fredi Simpson, Chelan County Republican chairwoman. And that favors Harum.
“The average person does not pay attention to politics,” Simpson said. “They go to a ballot and see a name they recognize. The incumbency is worth its weight in gold.”
Endorsements, she said, matter to people who may be sitting on the fence, but not that much to most voters.
Campaign funding is also a big factor in a race, she said, and a challenger needs to have more money than the incumbent so he or she can offset the name-recognition factor by signs and advertisements.
Simpson said her party has not endorsed either of the Republican candidates. Harum and Burnett are running as Republicans. Hartnett is a Democrat.
Burnett bristles at comments that he has too little experience for the job. He said he was a patrol corporal from 2004 to 2006 and was a patrol sergeant from 2006 to 2007. He also noted that he was a foreman in the logging industry for several years before he began working for the Sheriff’s Office. He said he’s supervised up to 12 people on a crew, and worked on Forest Service contracts and trucking schedules.
But being a good leader, he said, takes more than experience. “It’s also your ability to communicate with people and the willingness for people to follow you and look to you as a good leader,” he said. “I have that, and that’s proven by the endorsements that I have.”
Among his top priorities, Burnett said, is to “restore the public trust by reprioritizing the budget to better reflect the emphasis on patrol rather than have a top-heavy administration.”
He declined to be specific about how he would do that, saying his plans “are not finalized, and I don’t want to overcommit myself.”
Harnett has a specific plan. He said he would “take out two command-level salaries, and put them back into the budget to help with overtime and training.” He said his realignment strategy would eliminate duplication of responsibilities. He also said employees would have fewer people to answer to.
Harum countered that a functional department, like any business, needs supervisors to handle the load of administrative paperwork and to keep employees functioning at their best levels.
He said he thinks his competitors do not understand all that is involved in the budgeting and administrative process.
Hartnett ran for sheriff in 2002 and finished a distant third in a three-way race to Harum. Hartnett said he decided to run again because he’s seen a lot of confusion among the field staff. That, he said, is a result of too much shifting of middle management. He said he also thinks the sheriff spends too much time on issues “in Olympia” and not enough time with local issues. “I believe the department’s moral, efficiency and general operations have suffered from that.”
Harum said he averages 22 work days a year out of the office, “of which 10 of those are in Olympia,” and he argued that his efforts have brought in grants for the sheriff’s office. Without those, he said, he would have had to eliminate more deputy positions than he did during recessionary times
Technology comes into play
If elected, Hartnett said, he would scrutinize the budget for ways to reduce costs and allow the hiring of more patrol deputies. “Right now, for example, we outfit every deputy with a cell phone. Is that an effective use of county dollars? Can’t a deputy drive to a substation and use the phone there and call somebody? He said deputies should be “in the people business” and make more “face-to-face contact” with the public.
Burnett countered that such a plan “would be going backwards” and noted that “we work so much out of our cars that half the calls we handle can be cleared right there. We handle a lot of informational calls, theft calls and sometimes, people only want a case number. What if you have a call from way up at Manson or up the Entiat River Road that doesn’t require a deputy response? Do we want to drive that far and waste that gas money?”
Burnett criticized Harum for allowing a decrease in the number of volunteers working for the department. Harum argued that Burnett does not understand that the deputies’ contract requires him to offer many of the jobs done by volunteers to paid deputies first. “If I don’t,” he said, “they will file a grievance.”
Burnett also said he thinks the integrity of the sheriff’s office has decreased during Harum’s two terms in office. Harum argues “That’s not true. I hold the deputies to standards that have to be professional.” He added he thinks he has angered some employees by disciplinary actions that he has taken in the past couple of years, but he stands by those actions as necessary.
“The boss is not always liked, but it’s what it is,” he said.
Why are Hartnett’s campaign contributions so low? “I think times are tough and I don’t feel comfortable asking people for money,” he said. “I had a little nest egg put aside to use on the campaign so far and I’ve pretty much spent all of that.” He expects to seek contributions if he makes it past the primary.
And what about those endorsements? Hartnett said Burnett has actively pursued endorsements but he has not, and he is not bothered by the lack of endorsements.
“I’ve seen candidates in the past get lots of endorsements that looked great on paper but it turned out to be meaningless when the votes were cast,” Hartnett said.
Harum noted that he has been endorsed by almost all the sheriffs in the state and by the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Harum is president-elect of that group.
He said he did not actively work to get local endorsements because he thinks they create a divisive atmosphere in the department. Burnett, however, said he sees his endorsements as “more than just a popularity contest” and added that he thinks a top-functioning sheriff should be able to acquire the endorsement of the people he works with.
Dee Riggs: 664-7147