Elections

Five who would be sheriff: San Juan Islands will have a new top cop for the first time in 24 years | San Juan County Sheriff

Five candidates are running for San Juan County sheriff. The story is the top story in the July 7 edition of The Journal of the San Juan Islands. - Page designed by Richard Walker
Five candidates are running for San Juan County sheriff. The story is the top story in the July 7 edition of The Journal of the San Juan Islands.
— image credit: Page designed by Richard Walker

Five law enforcement professionals want to be your next sheriff.

The campaign is significant for these reasons:

One, islanders will have a new sheriff for the first time in 24 years. Anyone alive since 1986 has known only Bill Cumming as the county’s top cop.

Two, rarely has a single position on the San Juan County ballot generated so many candidates. All are colleagues with varied backgrounds. The field includes a past sheriff candidate, a retired police chief, a Town Council member, a county advisory board chairman, and the chairman of the prevention coalition.

You’ll get to meet and question the candidates at the Primary Election Forums presented by the League of Women Voters of the San Juans: July 16, 6:30 p.m., Mullis Center; July 17, 11 a.m. at Grace Church in Lopez Village; and July 17, 5 p.m. at Orcas Senior Center.

The two top vote-getters in the Aug. 17 primary will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

The sheriff earns $97,514 a year and manages a staff of 36 full-time employees and a budget of $2.3 million, which includes: $719,219, dispatch; $472,888, Enhanced E-911; $398,920, jail; and $209,615, Emergency Management.

Here are the candidates.

Jeff Asher
Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Asher (www.jeffasher.org) has been a resident of the county for 25 years. He has served as lead detective, patrol deputy, dive rescue team coordinator, dispatcher, patrol boat operator, undercover operations detective, and author of legal search warrants.

He ran for sheriff in 2002, receiving 2,363 votes to Cumming’s 3,480.

Asher has served as a field training officer and instructor for the state for Washington, and he and the dive rescue team are on the state Department of Emergency Management’s nationwide assist list. He has established working relationships with outside agencies such as the FBI, U.S. Customs, Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies. He acquired surplus equipment from the Federal Redistribution Program at little or no cost to the county; these items included a SCUBA compressor, mobile shooting range, office furniture, and several vehicles.

Asher’s goals as sheriff:

— Establish a reserve officer corps to reduce the impact of budget cuts on the Sheriff’s Office. “In our county, there are a large number of highly trained former law enforcement officers who are willing and able to help us as part-time deputies,” Asher said in a press release. “For the price of a uniform and a small stipend, the Reserve Officer Corps will dramatically and positively impact law enforcement in our county.”

— Establish a Citizens Advisory Board to strengthen the relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and the community and to increase accountability.

— Improve communication and training for department personnel to ensure the highest level of effectiveness and professionalism.

— Eliminate wasteful spending and secure outside funding for programs and equipment.

Asher has a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology with a minor in journalism from San Jose State University, as well as an associate’s degree in park management with an emphasis on budgeting. He and his wife, Diana, have two sons.

Brad Fincher
Brad Fincher (www.fincher4sheriff.com) is the adult probation officer for San Juan County. Sheriff Bill Cumming hired him in 1999 to set-up and manage the work crew program.

“Over the years, this innovative program has successfully saved the county nearly a million dollars in jail costs while providing a huge benefit in community service to all of the islands,” Fincher said in his campaign announcement. “Currently, I manage over 100 offenders for the court by monitoring their conditions, providing resources, and holding them accountable to the community.”

He was awarded the Probation Officer of the Year for the State of Washington in 2008.

Fincher has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of North Texas. He is chairman of the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition and has been chairman or member of the San Juan County Fair Board for nine years. He volunteered on the Sheriff’s Dive Rescue Team for three years.

His priorities as sheriff:

— “My biggest concern for our community is the abuse of alcohol and drugs in the islands especially by youth and young adults. My vision for the future is a community that works together with the Sheriff’s Office to cut off the sources of illegal drugs and educate our families about alcohol use and prescription drug abuse.”

— “I have been involved in the county budget process for years. I will make sure the Sheriff’s Office budget continues to support the staff and equipment needed to keep this county safe and secure. Managing the County’s resources is a priority for me.”

— “When I’m sheriff, I will visit each major island and hold a community meeting to listen to your ideas and suggestions.”

Fincher and his wife, Debbi, moved here in 1997. They have two sons, Zach, 10, and Luke, 6. “This is one of the safest places I can think of to raise a child. I want to keep it that way.”

Brent Johnson
Lead Detective Brent Johnson lives in the North Forty neighborhood of San Juan Island with his wife, Lynne-Anne, and daughter, Lenora. He has lived in the San Juans since Sheriff Cumming hired him as lead detective nearly eight years ago.

“With over 35 years of experience in law enforcement, 13 of which in supervisory positions, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, I look forward to taking the next step in serving our community as sheriff,” Johnson said in his campaign announcement.

Johnson is a graduate of Wayland Baptist University. He is chairman of the county Veterans Advisory Board of San Juan County, co-coordinator of the San Juan County Firewise program, member of the board of Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Services, and a volunteer firefighter and Red Cross volunteer.

Among his priorities as sheriff:

“It has been my experience that the needs of our small community are no different than those of the large communities I have served over the years. We all wish to be safe and secure and my goal is to make this happen. With more meaningful and intense training of our deputies and the acquisition of much-needed equipment, I believe this can be accomplished.

“In today’s climate of ever-increasing crime, I also believe that staff increases to provide 24-hour law enforcement coverage have become necessary. The further development of relationships with outside state and federal agencies that can provide additional resources at no cost to our county is paramount.”

Felix Menjivar
Deputy Felix Menjivar (www.felixforsheriff.com) has 12 years of law enforcement experience. He joined the Yakima County Sheriff’s Department as a patrol deputy in 1998 and later became a detective assigned to a narcotics unit, where he specialized in meth lab investigations. He moved to the San Juan Islands in 2002.

During his career with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, he has worked as a 911 dispatcher and a patrol deputy on Lopez and San Juan islands. He is one of two collision reconstructionists for the Sheriff’s Department. He is bilingual, fully fluent in Spanish.

Menjivar was elected to the Friday Harbor Town Council in November; if elected sheriff, he said he would have more flexibility in his schedule and would stay on the council. He is president of the Sheriff’s Guild, a volunteer firefighter with the Town of Friday Harbor, and chairman of his homeowners’ association’s architectural committee.

He has served on the town Planning Commission, as president of his homeowners’ association, and as a volunteer firefighter on Lopez Island.

“During my service as a deputy sheriff for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, I have learned to appreciate the unique needs of the different islands,” he said in his campaign announcement. “My word is my most valuable asset.  I lead by example and expect a high level of ethics and professionalism from the Sheriff’s Office … my motto is ‘Service with Integrity.’ ”

Among his goals as sheriff:

— Use assets more effectively. Computers in patrol cars would enable deputies to write reports without having to return to the station, saving an hour on patrol. He would establish a system enabling residents to report minor offenses online.

— Establish a Neighborhood Watch program, so the community can help police itself.

— Train an employee to be a dedicated grant writer, to pursue funding for equipment and personnel.

Menjivar and his wife, Angela, have three children: our 15-year-old twin sons Levi and Dylan; and a 10-year-old daughter, Samantha.

Rob Nou
Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Nou (www.robnou4sheriff.com) is the former chief of police of Burns, Ore. He lives on Lopez Island where he is a deputy sheriff, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and a member of the Lopez Island Prevention Coalition. He has worked with Lopez School on safety projects.

“As Sheriff Bill retires after six terms as your sheriff, San Juan County faces an important decision in choosing its next sheriff,” Nou said in his campaign announcement. “I believe that I possess the necessary education, experience, training and leadership to fill those shoes.”

Nou has 28 years of law enforcement experience, including 20 years in management.

“In that time I have worked a variety of assignments providing me with a broad range of experience as a deputy, detective, sergeant, and chief of police. I am a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the world-renowned program for law enforcement executives.”

As sheriff, his goal will be to work collaboratively with the islands’ communities to “solve problems and preserve the island way of life.”

He added, “It is my intention to work in partnership with our schools to ensure a safe and secure learning environment. I believe that public safety agencies should work seamlessly together to maximize effective use of assets and resources in working towards common goals.”

Nou graduated from Oregon College of Education with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in 1981. He was a deputy sheriff and sergeant for the Yamhill County, Ore., Sheriff’s Department from 1981 to 2003.

During his career at Yamhill County, he managed the department’s DARE program, created and led a multi-agency traffic team, managed five traffic safety enforcement grant projects, and led the conversion of the records management system to a new software platform.

He served as Burns police chief from 2004-08, and joined the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department shortly after moving here.

He has two sons, Chris, 23, and Danny, 20, who live in Oregon.

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