Puzzled over county sheriff race | Editorial

Sometimes in small-town elections, things get a little fierce. And it would seem the sheriff’s race is one of those times.

Deputy Ron Krebs is running against current Sheriff Rob Nou. At the League of Women Voters’ election forums, Krebs spent a lot of his time bashing his current boss. According to Krebs, the sheriff isn’t a strong communicator or an effective leader. This attitude leads us to wonder how much Kreb respects chain of command, which is a vital key in law enforcement – not only for teamwork, but for keeping people safe. When asked how he would deal with a lack of coverage on Orcas, Krebs said he would handle shifts himself. How is that a long-term solution? What duties would he not be doing in order to cover someone else’s job?

We also question Krebs’ way of dealing with suspected criminals. When asked by a forum audience member how he would handle “rumored drug houses,” Krebs asserted he would park his car in front of the home until the occupants decided to move on. We wonder what the ACLU would have to say about that.

We know that Nou has been faced with regulating suspected drug activity and did not solve the issue by forcing the tenants out so they could sell drugs in another area. When citizens from a neighborhood in Rosario aired concerns about an alleged drug-house, Undersheriff Bruce Distler attended a meeting to hear those concerns. Although many still question how the sheriff deals with drugs, the end result of this case was the arrest of the suspected criminal. This is just one case where action was taken under the leadership of the sheriff to make our community safer.

Nou displayed professionalism and thoughtfulness at the forums. He listed his accomplishments during his tenure: preserving jobs and avoiding department budget cuts; providing consistent training to staff; upgrading technology; receiving grants; and continuing work with prevention programs. He has not spoken negatively about any of his employees and when asked pointed questions from the audience, he maintained composure.

Are we thrilled with how Sheriff Nou has handled everything during his tenure? No. We are not even sure how badly he wants the job. His lack of presence and passion during this election season is disappointing.

We agree with Krebs that communication with the community is lacking. If re-elected, we sincerely hope Nou considers holding town hall meetings and increasing transparency, which is something Krebs says he himself would do as sheriff. However, when we recently lambasted the department for switching to electronic filing and thus eliminating our access to the much-loved sheriff’s log, Nou and the undersheriff listened to our concerns. They even answered with a solution: they send in weekly reports on activity so the public knows about every call.

We are troubled by the lack of morale that Krebs (and other deputies) say is permeating the department.  The Sounder staff has read many letters from members of the sheriff’s office that speak of an uncommunicative work environment.  And the San Juan County Deputy Sheriffs Guild publicly endorsed Krebs.

This disconnect between leadership and staff is another red flag. We hope Nou makes some changes with his leadership style and relationship with certain officers. Even more importantly, we want to see his passion on the campaign trail. If the sheriff  is willing to fight for his job we would wholeheartedly endorse him.

And if Krebs illustrated a clear plan for improving communication, dealing with coverage cuts and a little more respect for the  chain of command, we would be more inclined to consider him as the next sheriff.