by Richard Uhlhorn
The Manson Community Council hosted a candidate’s forum for the upcoming mid-term elections in Chelan County. Both the Sheriff’s and Chelan County Commissioner’s candidates were on hand to give their backgrounds and answer questions from the audience.
Brian Patterson, representing Residents United for Neighbors, sponsored the event. “We sponsored the candidate’s forum because these positions are important,” said Patterson.
Kari Sorenson introduced the rest of the council to those in attendance and said, “There are a lot of things happening in the valley,” said Sorenson. She said the Council is hoping to steer development in the community and keep agriculture as one of the major components of the area.
Councilman John Frolker acted as Master of Ceremonies. Each candidate three minutes to introduce themselves. They also had time to answer submitted questions and questions from the audience which numbered an estimated 40 individuals. Sorenson reported after the forum that there were another 26 residents following the forum on-line.
Mike Morrison has challenged Sheriff Brian Burnett for his position. Morrison is a 42 year old law enforcement veteran who began his career in Thurston County.
He has served in Chelan County in various positions including as a training officer, school resource officer, swift water rescue and law and justice. “I love serving my community and want to continue serving.”
Brian Burnett has served Chelan County’s Sheriff’s Office since 1998 and as its Sheriff for the past 12 years. He is seeking another four year term in that position.
Burnett said, “Being a trusted leader is a big responsibility.” He calls law enforcement a calling, not a career and claims to have built a solid team and numerous relationships throughout the 12 years. “Now is not the time to change a team that is respected,” said Burnett. “I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
Morrison however feels it is time to transition the office from politics back to law enforcement. “I too have connections and I see the challenges.” Morrison’s biggest concern is eliminating what he calls costly lawsuits and settlements plaguing the department. “There is another federal lawsuit coming. We need to get back to focusing on law enforcement and honor our contracts with the Forest Service, marine patrols and schools.”
Burnett calls Morrison’s lawsuit claims as half-truths and says that over the years as Sheriff, he has created a lot of different programs that serve the Chelan County taxpayers.
Recruitment is an area that Burnett struggles with when competing with different police departments who pay better including Wenatchee who has a higher rate of pay; up to $800 to $1,000 more per month. One of the big draws for Chelan County is not just pay,
but life style.
Morrison also wants to honor the commitments with the organizations the department works with. He also wants to focus school safety and conduct shooter drill training for all deputies in the department. Morrison sees a need to prioritize efforts and resources to address the homelessness issue and drug crisis currently facing the county.
Both said they follow the constitution. Burnett said, “I feel strongly about state and local laws.” Morrison stated that constitutional rights need to be honored. However, when legal issues plague Labor & Industries or the Department of Health, Morrison doesn’t feel it is in the Sheriff’s Office to be involved. Burnett sees a potential battle coming and feels the need for the department to address those concerns.
Mary Sherer asked if the department got any serious pushback by not enforcing the State’s mask mandate?
Burnett said some residents were upset that deputies weren’t wearing masks. “If they were required in by a business, I told the officers to respect that,” said Burnett. He also stated that vaccinations were a free choice. “I’m not going to ask an employee if they are vaccinated.”
Morrison said, “We have the same view. I agree with the Sheriff.” He stated that masks made communication difficult when he had to collect a statement. “Officer safety is first.”
Asked by another resident how he reconciled with the new liberal laws the State handed down. “How do you reconcile that support for the left side,” Morrison was asked. Morrison replied that the laws that came down helped law enforcement do a better job. “We needed to slow down and become more effective. My job as a law enforcement officer is to protect and serve despite my personal feelings.”
Burnett stated that officers needed to treat individuals as human beings and follow the laws. “A lot of things being said here about lawsuits. I work closely with our Human Resources department. Do your research. These positions are very important.”
Morrison said the state came up with new ways to do the job. “No more politics… let’s get back to law enforcement.”
Another resident asked, “What constitutes the Sheriff overstepping his boundaries with mandates? Is it up to the community or the courts to decide.”
Burnett stated he has a problem with the State mandating issues like vaccination mandates. Morrison added, “We follow our oath to protect your rights.”
Another resident asked about their personal thoughts on the alleged January 6 insurrection. “The final outcome was horrible,” said Burnett. “Many people got caught up, but those who broke the law need to be held accountable.” Morrison said he didn’t disagree with Burnett. He added that he also didn’t like what went on in Portland and Seattle. “Chaos can’t happen. I didn’t like the way our they damaged property… that was unacceptable.” He also felt, like Burnett that those radicals need to be held accountable. “Fellow officers lost their lives… that’s not acceptable.”
A retired Las Vegas police officer asked what their plans for the future were with all the growth going on. Morrison said that the optimum number of officers was 2.5 per 1,000 people. As to the proposed 720 apartment complex planned for the Apple Blossom Center, Morrison said, “We had better get more guys.”
Burnett stated that Washington State was last for officers per capita, but they are paid higher. “How can we be creative,” he asked. A part of that creativity is forming partnerships with schools and other agencies.
Both candidates are experienced law enforcement officers. Burnett has more administrative experience, but Morrison comes from a different direction. Chelan County voters should do their research regarding their choice to lead law enforcement forward in the County. For more information, visit each candidate’s website:
http://www.sheriffburnett.com – 509-699-3700