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Q&A with Adams County Sheriff candidates

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 14, 2022 3:33 PM

ADAMS COUNTY - The race for Adams County Sheriff attracted two candidates, incumbent Dale Wagner and Matthew Carlson, currently an officer with the Ritzville Police Department. Both are running as Republicans.

The Columbia Basin Herald submitted four questions to each candidate and asked them for a brief biography. Their answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length. Candidates were both given a maximum of 200 words to respond to each question and a deadline to respond which they both met.

Background:

Wagner: 2015 appointed sheriff for the remaining term of the previous sheriff.

2016 elected in the following election cycle to finish out the vacated term. 2018 ran unopposed in the election.

I began my career here in Adams County, in November my service will be 25 years. During that time I have held many positions within the agency and have excelled in each one. Was chosen as undersheriff, serving for the previous sheriff. I have been elected two times as Adams County Sheriff.

Volunteer coach for youth soccer, basketball, baseball, T-ball, football (youth league grid kid, president for 4 years). Boy scout leader for many years, church callings and assignments, sing the National Anthem for many events. Othello community fair cleanup and preparation. Many community events that assist the less fortunate. I am and have always been open to assist in any capacity if needed.

Adams County Is a very special place to me and many others. I began my career at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and made Adams County my home. My wife and I have raised our family here and have never regretted it. We love the small town feel. We appreciate and embrace the cultural diversity.

Carlson: With my military and civilian police experience, I have 25 years in law enforcement. I’m a fourth-generation Adams County resident. I currently work for the Ritzville Police Department.

Q: How did you get interested in running for sheriff, or in the case of the incumbent, why did you decide to run again?

Wagner: I appreciate the opportunity to serve. Since being selected to finish out the previous sheriff’s term, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office has made huge strides in its performance and retention of its employees. I have formed a great team. I will continue my service once re-elected, to promote a positive environment for the Sheriff’s Office.

Carlson: My decision to run for Adams County Sheriff began after hearing from many citizens that they have lost trust and respect for the Sheriff’s Office over the last five years. I have also observed that roughly 90% of our County has almost no patrol. In that 90%, the number one crime is theft.

Q: What are your top three goals if elected?

Wagner: I have a team that works hard and is determined to provide the best service to our community.

I have built a very diverse team that blends together and truly is an example of how all people, no matter who they are, can accomplish great things while working for the same cause.

I have and continue to hire the best. I require all deputies to live within our County, thus providing a great response.

We continued with a successful K-9 program and are on the second dog. I have worked with the Adams County Commissioners in implementing body cameras, in-car cameras and tasers. Every deputy has ballistic helmets for tactical response and protection. I have started a UAV (drone) program where line deputies are trained pilots and have had great success in its operations. Deputies have computers in their vehicles.

I have utilized relationships with the (Department of Defense) to acquire a mobile command unit as well a tactical armored vehicle that will assist our regional tactical response team.

I continue to be very involved in partnerships throughout the region pertaining to the support we offer with investigations within Adams County by the regional narcotics teams we support.

Carlson: My top three goals when elected will be to re-establish a safe, effective and efficient jail, as it is currently unsafe and understaffed. The majority of the inmates are currently being housed in several different counties which is creating more expenses for our taxpayers. I will re-establish the interlocal agreements with the law enforcement agencies within Adams County and recognize the General Authority Peace Officer-Powers, Circumstances of the other agencies within Washington State. Lastly, implement a patrol plan to get deputies in the areas where our #1 crime of theft is occurring, which means having a presence in all areas of the county.

Q: What issues do you see as the most important, if you are elected?

Wagner: Our jail is in need of changes and I will continue to work toward changes that will make it the safest and most effective we can be.

I understand the needs of the county and how we can best protect each other. I will continue to assist smaller communities within our county in helping solve issues, big and small. Many solutions are a collaboration of communities working together.

Carlson: Staffing and safety of all departments within the Sheriff’s Office are a huge priority, we need to become a fully staffed department again. Mending relationships and creating partnerships with other agencies within Adams County.

Q: What do you see as the longer-term challenges for law enforcement in the county?

Wagner: I am a proven leader and will continue to build on the success of the Sheriff’s Office. I will continue to make tough decisions based on best practices and safety. I understand that some may view tough decisions negatively, but they are called tough for a reason. I will continue to lead with compassion, strength and a desire to keep Adams County as safe as we can.

I have created corporal positions in ACSO in both the Jail and the road and it has assisted greatly with supervision and reduction in overtime for Sergeants. In the jail, I also created a sergeant position that assists with the daily work of the jail commander's duties.

I have complete confidence in our abilities to investigate and resolve many crimes from the most serious to the most mundane. I continue to teach and lead with compassion for others and work hard to instill a sense of teamwork and accomplishment. I will continue to retain great employees and strive to hire only the best.

Carlson: Uniting as one department, establishing and working toward a plan to lower the recent crime increase of almost 55%. Updating our jail facility to create a safer environment for not only the Correction Deputies but the inmates as well. Regaining the trust and respect of the citizens of Adams County is going to be a challenge, however, I am eager and ready to take this challenge on.

Editor’s Note: The Columbia Basin Herald was unable to separately verify Carlson’s claim that crime has increased by nearly 55% in Adams County. Multiple sources indicate that crime has increased and decreased erratically over the last 10 years in the county and data shows crime has increased on some level nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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