The race for Klickitat County Sheriff is an interesting one between Sheriff Bob Songer, a career law man, and political newcomer Doug Charters, a man who believes in citizens policing themselves.
The Enterprise was able to sit down with both Songer and Char-ters to get a better sense of who they are and why they are running for the office of Sheriff (4-year term).
Why are you running for Sheriff?
Bob Songer: I’d like to finish public safety projects I have been working on my entire law enforcement career. I’d also like the opportunity to expand on other projects and introduce new ones. I want to continue to serve the public as I have and because this is the best job I have ever had.
Doug Charters: A few different reasons. Not enough people run for office in Klickitat County, I hope to inspire more people to run for office at the county level particularly those that are hesitant due to the one-party dominance and/or fear of personal repercussions. Having a real race gives the community an opportunity to voice their opinions. I also feel that our campaigns have become too expensive at the local level, leading to the appearance of being beholden to donors, I want to help change that by example in not accepting any donations or endorsements.
What is your experience and background in law enforcement?
Bob Songer: I’ve been in law enforcement for over 40 years; 18 of those years have been in law enforcement management. I got my master’s in criminal justice from University of Portland and attended the Fed-eral Bureau of Investi-gation National Academy.
Doug Charters: I have no prior experience in law enforcement. That is why I am running to be Citizen Sheriff, meaning fostering an environment where all Klickitat County residents have a say in our joint public safety. I am a lifetime Klickitat County resident, I have worked in forestry and KSDC (a predecessor to WGAP). Spent years at SDS and am a coordinator for summer youth workers. I also have been volunteering at West Klickitat County Historical Society for over 20 years.
What is the most important issue facing the county that the Sheriff will face?
Bob Songer: Illegal drugs. I believe they are a cancer on our society. Not only do they destroy the individual, but they destroy the people around them. I am a huge advocate for drug treatment programs for those who ask for and want help.
Doug Charters: Not just today, but the most important issue is always our joint public safety.
From what I have been hearing not only do we need more deputies, our jail staff is overworked. I would work with the County Commissioners to find some money in the budget for at least 1 more full-time deputy and jailer. With all the monies coming in from the landfill, I think this would be an appropriate use of a small part of those funds. Also, better relations between the sheriff and the public. While Bob is an excellent administrator, at times it seems as if he alienates a portion of the public due to his insistence on bringing ideology into law enforcement. As Citizen Sheriff, my primary goal would be to not allow my personal ideologies to get in the way of smart, fact-based policy decisions.
What would you like to see happen under your leadership as county sheriff?
Bob Songer: I would like to see an expansion of the community policing program, or the “sheriff’s posse” as it has been called. It’s basically a countywide neighborhood watch program. I would like to improve the training we have for our pilots in the posse, they have helped us with a lot of search and rescue situations. I would also like to add in training for tracking dogs that could be used in both criminal at search and rescue tracking.
Doug Charters: As just mentioned I think Bob is good at administering the department, if elected, I would keep all the current department heads to respect continuity. I would sit down with every employee of the Sheriff’s Department and have an open, direct conversation about what is done well and what could be improved upon.
I would like to sponsor the creation of a citizen-driven CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team) for Klickitat County.
Ideology should not be part of our joint public safety. I see three specific areas where Bob seems to let ideology rather than joint public safety be the primary thought process behind policy making: Bob is always very outspoken on his chosen views on the 2nd Amendment. While I agree with the right to keep and bear arms, the sheriff’s job is to enforce laws not make them.
Many people hear the word “posse” and, due to the history of the word, view it with a taint. While I have never heard of any direct evidence of these fears, a name change (‘Klickitat County Sheriff’s Volunteers, as one example), more obvious visual distinction between volunteers and deputies, and no armed volunteers unless they have equal amount of firearms/law enforcement training currently required to qualify as a deputy would do much to relieve the concerns I have heard.
Finally, I believe our drug enforcement efforts should be focused on the dealers, in my opinion the ‘anti-drug’ signs are not only ineffective, they cast a bad light on the whole county, particularly for visitors to our beautiful county. To me these seem more like campaign signs rather than an effective law enforcement tool.