San County Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney candidates | Q&A

Staff report

In the Nov. 6 general election, islanders will vote on the San Juan County Sheriff and Prosecutor.

Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord is running for his sixth consecutive re-election, after initially winning the seat in 1994. Local attorney Nicholas Power is running against Gaylord for the partisan position that holds a four-year term.

Sheriff Ronald Krebs is running for his first re-election, after initially winning his first bid for public office in 2014. San Juan County Deputy Jeff Asher is also running for the nonpartisan seat, with a four-year term.

The Journal asked the candidates the following questions:

Jeff Asher

Journal: What made you want to run for sheriff?

JA: This election presents an opportunity to meaningfully change how we conduct law enforcement operations. There is clearly a need for change at the top and that is precisely why I am running for sheriff. I strongly believe the department can improve in multiple areas to ensure that the law, citizens’ rights and the safety of our officers and the community are fully respected and protected. We are facing major challenges and the need to integrate constitutional policing is an opportunity for law enforcement to both affect positive change within the profession and find new ways to strengthen our relationship with this community and restore community trust.

Journal: When it comes to crime, what is the No. 1 problem in our county and what is the solution?

JA: The No. 1 issue in San Juan County is narcotics and the damage they cause to individuals in our community. To battle the problem, I have a plan. First, to aggressively attack the supply of illicit drugs. To accomplish this, we need deputies available 24 hours a day to act on tips from the community so that the sheriff’s office can work on this problem with our resources and other outside agencies such as a drug task force. Second, solve the problem of understaffing. I intend to expand the reserve program and introduce community service officers to free deputies to focus on drugs. Third, I intend to assist in addiction recovery efforts. There are a number of programs already in place, like LEAD or a therapeutic drug court, that I support and believe will be of help once made a part of a bigger plan.

Journal: Please describe the role of law enforcement in a small community?

JA: Law enforcement in a small community is different in many areas. Although our deputies perform the same “serve and protect” function as any other agency, they engage in many proactive initiatives. They interact with families and business owners. Deputies should build trust with diverse island culture and work collaboratively to address social issues, drug problems, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other issues that affect our island life. The deputies also have a privilege to become role models, advisers and educators with tremendous influence on the younger generation.

Sheriff Ron Krebs

Journal: What made you want to run for sheriff?

RK: What started out as a mission to fix issues within the sheriff’s office rapidly turned into a labor of love. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not happy and excited to go into the office. Being a public servant is not just what I do, it is who I am. Being your sheriff allows me the opportunity to give back and serve the community I love so much.

Journal: When it comes to crime, what is the No. 1 problem in our county and what is the solution?

RK: One of the biggest issues facing law enforcement and society today is the drug and mental health crisis. I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself about factors which lead to drug addiction, and other social issues associated with drug users, to better understand how my office can serve and protect all our residents. Simply arresting someone for a drug crime solves the immediate threat but doesn’t stop the problem. My office will continue to deal with the criminal aspect with a zero tolerance policy. Unfortunately, a multitude of other criminal and social issues are close companions of the drug crisis. As part of our community policing philosophy, my deputies also look for opportunities to encourage individuals to seek help with our local service agencies. We need to continue to educate our youth to choose healthy choices and lead healthy lifestyles.

Journal: Please describe the role of law enforcement in a small community?

RK: The role of law enforcement in a small community is about being fair and consistent. As law enforcement officers we have a tremendous amount of discretion. I learned early on in my career that just because you can write a ticket, doesn’t always mean you should. Our job is to educate the public and enforce the laws. As a small agency, we know most people in our community and as such we are able to be proactive in small problems and prevent them from becoming into bigger ones. We are fortunate that our lower call volume allows us to spend more time being proactive instead of reactive.

Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord

Journal: What makes you the ideal candidate?

RG: Twenty-four years experience serving as your prosecutor. From the jetski case to the recent permit fee case and thousands of criminal and civil cases between, I demonstrate proven success in court founded on superior legal skills, high ethics, independence and impartiality. My extensive record includes trying cases to verdict, defending lawsuits and advising on open government and public safety. I lead an accomplished team of lawyers dedicated to public service with no conflicts of interest.

Journal: What is the biggest problem facing our county? What is the solution?

RG: Our county is trending away from economic and social diversity and that threatens the way of life for people who live here today. This risk falls disproportionately to those “in the middle” – teachers, laborers, small business owners, and most county workers including professionals such as engineers, planners and lawyers. We must resist becoming a rural museum of visitors supported by workers commuting from Anacortes instead of families who make their life in the islands. Housing is important, and so is diversity of jobs including crafts and farms.

Our county is a diverse community conquering its problems through a unique, self-reliant style which is characteristic of most who live here. We benefit from “intelligent common sense” creating hope and confidence that we will protect our people and protect our land. The solution lies in being mindful always for the needs of others, and seizing opportunities when they arise while not being fearful of failing. Leaders in business, government and public service must stay current, share information, follow trends and respond appropriately. Examples of my solution in action are the housing ballot measure and the drug-free work of Coalition for Orcas Youth.

Journal: How can the prosecutor assist victims of crime?

RG: I have expanded services for crime victims from a box of papers mailed to victims into a two-person office helping those harmed by crime, whether reported or not. We focus on the three C’s: compassion provides an ear and a shoulder supporting discovery of harm caused by crime, then action for safety; communication ensures that victims know promptly what is happening next and prepare appropriately; and collaboration means the concerns of victims are seriously considered and that their voices are heard at every important step.

Nick Power

Journal: What makes you the ideal candidate?

NP: While both my opponent and I are qualified and competent attorneys, what makes me a better candidate is my commitment and ability to address problems with objectivity and fairness. My opponent has occupied his office for just shy of a quarter century. That is too long. When the same person occupies the position of prosecuting attorney for that long they invariably become politically indebted to other officials and interest groups. This causes strained interpretations and inconsistent application of prosecutorial discretion. The county would benefit from having a fresh perspective and a prosecutor who is not constrained by decades of relationships.

As an attorney who has represented criminal defendants, landowners who have been mistreated by the county and whistleblowers who have been wrongfully terminated, I am in a unique position to know what internal problems have been allowed to develop and how best to fix them.

Journal: What is the biggest problem facing our county? What is the solution?

NP: We have ceded far too much ground to drug dealers who deal openly and where kids congregate. Year after year officials have taken a look-the-other-way attitude and let these hot spots remain – places that are very often where kids go to socialize and recreate. We need to decide as a community that we do not want this and elect people who are willing to actually follow through on interdiction efforts and active prosecution of drug dealers. As prosecutor, I will both advise the sheriff’s department on how to collect evidence and make cases that “stick” and prosecute the offenders to keep hard drugs away from kids.

Journal: How can the prosecutor assist victims of crime?

NP: A prosecutor can best assist victims by preventing crimes from happening in the first place. This is accomplished by devoting resources to interdict crimes that are known to cause further “downstream” crimes. It is well known that the trafficking of drugs causes a cascade of other crimes from sexual assault and child neglect to property crimes like theft. The reason why keeping hard drugs away from kids is so vital is that the downstream impacts are enormous and can affect lives for decades.

Contributed photo                                Ron Krebs.

Contributed photo Ron Krebs.

Contributed photo                                Randy Gaylord.

Contributed photo Randy Gaylord.

Contributed photo                                Nick Power

Contributed photo Nick Power

Contributed photo                                Jeff Asher

Contributed photo Jeff Asher