The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Sheriff race focuses on core issues


September 19, 2018

Lou Marzeles

CANDIDATES INTERVIEWED: The Sentinel invited the two candidates for Klickitat County Sheriff (incumbent Sheriff Bob Songer, left, and Doug Charters) to an editorial board discussion last week.

Lou Marzeles


The two candidates for Klickitat County Sheriff, incumbent Bob Songer and Doug Charters, met at the office of The Sentinel last Wednesday for a discussion of core issues. Following are comments from the question-and-answer session with the two candidates. Some question and comments are abridged for space. The entire video of the interview can be seen on YouTube at

Each candidate was invited to offer an opening statement. Charters declined; Songer said, "It's been a real honor to serve this county and the citizens here. I am blessed to have such outstanding employees at the sheriff's office."

Q. What are the primary concerns for the sheriff's office beyond its expected duties?

A. Songer: As you know, I created a posse of about 130 members, and I have six pilots whose services are free of charge to the taxpayers. I call that community policing, and I think that is one of the big issues with law enforcement today. You have to be in partnership with the citizenry in order to be effective in doing your job and carrying out law enforcement duties. The posse has no arrest authority. They merely are good witnesses. I think most people know what neighborhood Crimewatch is all about. Well, that's all that is on a county-wide basis. They're trained to observe, document, and report. We do use them because we have 19 sworn officers, deputies in the sheriff's office, and we have a long county, a two-hour drive over 100 miles. So we're spread out pretty thin. So having a citizen volunteer working with us it enables us to spot more crime criminal activity going on and get it reported to us, so we can respond to it and investigate it. So I'm very big on community policing, working with the citizens, and we've got outstanding citizens involved.

I believe in treatment, drug treatment. But I also believe in being very proactive in going after drug dealers and users that are committing criminal activity.

A. Charters: Overall, the sheriff's department is doing a very good job out there. One of the reasons to get into this race is that people are concerned about the posse. There is this fear factor a little bit within the public, and the posse is one of the questions. Public safety is the main concern. In an emergency, the sheriff's department is in control. A lot of people don't realize how in-depth the sheriff's department is and how much responsibility a sheriff actually has. By having a contested race, people can have their concerns brought up, but also they can look at what the sheriff actually does and the massive responsibilities that a sheriff has to keep the community safe and do it good way.

Q. One point that is obvious in this race is that [Charters] has no background in law enforcement and is running against a candidate with a long background in the field. How much difference does background make?

A. Charters: I've lived in my community all my life. I've done community service for five years. I'm a mechanic; [in that job] you've got to keep the driver safe, the public safe. That's a lot of responsibility. But what happens if nobody runs? Contested races are a good thing because in the end the little things that people may have grievances with, they can express them freely and openly in public. And the competition is a good thing. Complacency is the enemy of good governance, as [one person] mentioned. So we're not being complacent by having candidates running. I hope to inspire other candidates in the other races to run, so we just don't have a one-party candidate or nobody show up at all to run.

A. Songer: I've had over 40 years and law enforcement, 18 years in upper level management in law enforcement, military experience in the United States Air Force and an honorable discharge from the Air Force. I completed State Peace Officers Academy, graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and the Nevada State Peace Officers Academy. I have a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Oregon Portland. I'm also a member of the golden American Legion Post 116 in Goldendale. I've been endorsed just recently [corrections officers unions]. Also I got an endorsement from the White Salmon and Bingen police departments. I received a primary endorsement from the State Farm Bureau. And at this time I have right around 400 citizens who have endorsed me as well. It has been an honor to serve as your sheriff. If you reelect me as your sheriff, I will continue making the illegal drug trafficking and drug related crimes a top priority. I am extremely proud of that community policing program. There are other counties looking into our program, thinking about creating their own. When I took over as sheriff and began my job as sheriff, the working relationship with the outside agencies wasn't the best, being quite candid. And I'm a big believer in law enforcement needing to cooperate. Usually the troops don't have a problem cooperating with each other; it's the administrators. Oftentimes they their egos get in the way. I've done away with all that nonsense. I give every city police officer a special deputy commission whenever they go out into the county. They have the same arrest authority that the sheriff has. They cover on our calls, and we're working together 100 percent.

Q. Let's move on to other issues.

A. Charters: There is a little hesitancy or concern of the citizenry over the posse, and my personal concern is that they are able to carry weapons and these people don't have the best protection; they should have body armor because they could end up potentially in a situation in harm's way. And that's another budgetary item that's expensive. And another thing that we learned out here in talking with folks is that a lot of people don't like Bob's signs [warning drug users to leave the county]. We really appreciate his wanting to enforce the law when it comes to illegal drugs; this is a very necessary thing to do. But there's a certain portion of the public that thinks that they make the whole county look bad. It could be stated something like, welcome to Klickitat County, the sheriff's department is here to help, or something in that kind of a phrase. you know a certain demographic of the public in that phrase that phrases that way. They fear some kind of retaliation or consequences by putting a sign out there.

More of the interview will run next week.


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