By Jeff Asher
In this election, I am running “for” rather than “against.” My 30-plus years in the sheriff’s office has educated me about the law and the community. I have a passionate vision of how to best serve San Juan County. I want to know I have done everything I can to support, to serve and to protect everyone who lives in these islands.
During my tenure, I’ve worked with four different sheriffs, watching each in action and will always remember the things that impressed me. Using the knowledge gained from each one of them, together with my vision and ideas, I will improve this department for the benefit of all islanders.
Let me take you on a trip down memory lane, sheriff by sheriff.
• Sheriff Ray Sheffer: He had an immense presence and owned the room. I remember coming into his office the day I was hired and seeing this huge man sitting behind the desk. He stood up, shook my hand, and I was a mere shadow next to him. There was no question he was in control.
When Ray was off-duty, he was absolutely off-duty and not available; however, he trusted his staff to make the right decisions in his absence. If an employee made a mistake, Ray would pull that person aside and address the issue, then it was over, and we moved on. Ray spoke up about how he felt. Ray never had an agenda and was honest about his feelings on issues whether we liked it or not. Ray is no longer with us but is always remembered as a sheriff who kept us safe no matter what and had a plan for every contingency.
• Sheriff Bill Cumming: I remember the day Bill took office. He was always checking in with employees and asking for feedback. He was kind to his employees, sending handwritten Christmas cards and inviting some staff to his home for holiday dinner. While there is a much longer list of things I admired about Bill, I will shorten it here:
What was memorable about Bill: (Some might find this list crazy, but I really admired him for these things.)
Bill always brought his lunch to work and ate at his desk always making the most of his day. When a citizen came in with a concern he would stop what he was doing to address the issue. When someone passed away, Bill made a point to follow up with the family. I patterned the way I spoke to families after him. Nobody knew or handled juveniles better than Bill. He was in the schools and knew everything that was going on with the kids and the parents. Bill wrote the book on community policing and I liked that. Bill worked long hours from early in the morning to late in the evening. We shared a lot of good times.
• Sheriff Rob Nou: Rob came from Lopez Island and was a chief of police in Oregon. He was always nice to me and I always like talking to him.
Rob was supportive and a great listener. He cares about the community and making sure things were done in a low-key style. Rob is genuinely a kind man who does not have a hidden agenda. Rob would listen to a citizen and wait for them to completely finish venting before addressing the problem. This is a style that he has the patent on. Rob is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is very knowledgeable on criminal justice trends. I was always very impressed by this. Rob knows community policing because he practices it every day on Lopez Island.
• Sheriff Ron Krebs: Ron and I have a unique shared experience as his grandparents lived on San Juan Island right next to my grandparents. Through the 60s and 70s we spent summers next door to each other. He has a unique sense of humor that helps him in many areas. Ron is a kind person and has a heart of gold.
Four sheriffs — four unique styles. As I worked with each sheriff, I paid attention to their strengths and weaknesses. I saw what works and what doesn’t. I observed, listened and learned. I developed my own style that I will greatly benefit the department and the community.