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Q&A with Adams Co. Sheriff candidates

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 3, 2022 1:27 PM

With the general election next Tuesday, the Columbia Basin Herald submitted some follow-up questions to candidates running for office in Grant and Adams counties.

Incumbent Adams County Sheriff Dale Wagner and challenger Matthew Carlson each received the same questions.

The Herald appreciates the candidates’ taking the time to answer the questions.

Q: You’ve been on the campaign trail for the summer. Have you heard anything over that time that changed your mind about the most important issues facing the sheriff’s office?

Wagner: This campaign season has been a doozy. As for hearing anything that would change my mind about issues facing the Sheriff's Office, no, jail is my number one focus. We need to find, recruit and hire qualified people to work in our jail. We are making progress with this and hope to have our jail ready for inmates in January or February. We will still need to address the issues of the facility. We cannot keep using bandaids. Safety for everyone is the premier focus.

Carlson: No. We still have a closed jail due to a lack of retention and willingness to hear why correction deputies were leaving. First priority will be to recruit and fill the positions lost. Negotiations are currently in progress for the association the correction deputies and dispatchers belong to. I am hopeful an increase in pay will happen which will assist in attracting qualified applicants. After positions are filled I will be willing to speak to those who serve with me to see what can be improved. If they are determined to leave I will at least listen to their reasons why and try to improve upon those issues.

The current sheriff is still not recognizing the general police authority of any law enforcement agency in the state, which means no other agency has authority to conduct any Law Enforcement investigations without prior written approval. Making it easier for criminals to escape justice. I will change that as soon as I am elected.

The crime rate in Adams County is high and it may be due to accounting errors that should have been caught by the current sheriff before it got this out of hand. I will take responsibility and not push the blame onto others as the leader of the Sheriff’s Office.

There seems to still be no major incident plans in place, which would make responding to a disaster more streamlined and get the assets needed in the right place rather than just winging it and hoping for a good turnout.

There is no individual plan for each school under the Sheriff’s Office’s protection to ensure the safety of our children. I will sit down with each school and come up with a plan that best suits the school’s and students’ needs.

Q: How do you plan to attract and retain qualified employees? It’s a challenge to find and retain employees in any line of work these days.

Carlson: There are three things almost every law enforcement professional looks for when deciding to relocate. Those are pay, equipment and schedule. Knowing that I will work on making all three attractive for possible new professionals. I will also highlight the great school systems we have in the county and the variety of locations to live throughout the county.

Wagner: Recruitment and retention of employees in all areas, jail, dispatch and road deputies is something I take pride in. I understand some will leave, but while they are here in Adams County I do what I can to support those cherished employees with what they need to be safe and successful with a great team environment that will hopefully help them to stay. I feel we are attractive to those looking to get into law enforcement, especially for our locals. Adams County is a great size office that employees can learn and grow in. I hope all good employees stay. I am working toward better pay, benefits,safety, security, incentives and teamwork.

Q: Cooperation between law enforcement agencies has come up a few times lately. How do you plan to promote and support that cooperation?

Carlson: First and foremost I will recognize the general police authority of all agencies in the state. I will be willing to work with other agencies and not let personal feelings dictate my actions. The safety of the Adams County residents and Deputies who serve with me will be my top priority. With a well-put-together plan, Adams County can be one of the safest counties in the state.

Wagner: Cooperation between law enforcement agencies is great with many surrounding agencies and of course, it goes both ways. I work hard to establish great working relationships, am I perfect? No, I see areas I may need to improve on. I continue to reach out, assist, and try to discuss issues as they arise. Doors should never be closed to discussion or progress, Egos should be left at the door even when it is difficult. Honesty is the starting point, identifying certain issues and then finding ways to work with them together. I am more than willing to work with anyone.

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