Some may wonder if it really matters who the Sheriff of Washington County is. The answer is “yes.” It matters a great deal for the safety of the community and also for the success of the organization. The Sheriff provides leadership and direction to our large organization – acting as a rudder and pointing the way forward. In addition to providing direction, the Sheriff leads as the ambassador of the Sheriff’s Office and Washington County law enforcement, representing the Office in the media, in civil cases, as well as to the public and other criminal justice partners. In order to be an effective leader and ambassador, a sheriff must have a strong reputation for integrity and a clear leadership philosophy.
At its core, my leadership philosophy is about serving those who serve our community. A servant leadership approach strives to provide the following:
- Clear direction
- Make people feel valued as professionals and individuals
- Equip them for success through tools, training and empowerment
To do this right requires I remain focused on these fundamentals, be accountable, receive regular feedback and mentoring, and balance the perspectives of different organizational levels. The most important leader traits include strength of character, being a good listener, showing respect for diverse people and roles in the organization, following-up, and being self-aware about the leader’s actions to use their authority for good related to ethics, power and organizational values. I very much enjoy teaching and facilitating servant leadership discussions at the Sheriff’s Office and at the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association. Doing so challenges me with ideas about how I, or we, can do better. This is exciting and reinforces that we can always improve ourselves and how we lead our teams.
I am fortunate that my earliest leadership training began while growing up, as my parents modeled what I understand today to be servant leadership. But my professional leadership training and experience started in the military, which I joined after graduating from college. I served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and my leadership education included the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School, Infantry Officer basic and advanced courses, the Combined Arms Staff Service School and the Command and General Staff College. My assignments included commanding Army Reserve detachments and companies, as well as leading battalion-level provincial reconstruction work while deployed to Iraq.
My leadership training outside the military includes earning a master’s degree in public administration, graduating from the FBI National Academy, and completing Harvard’s seminar for public sector leaders. My assignments at the Sheriff’s Office include every uniformed rank from first-line supervisor / sergeant, to lieutenant, commander, chief deputy, undersheriff, and sheriff.
This leadership training and experience is essential as the Sheriff’s Office provides the most diverse array of services of any local public safety agency I know. It takes comprehensive experiences across many different assignments to best prepare for the leadership duties of Sheriff of the third most populated county in Oregon. Our two primary uniformed divisions, patrol and jail, have entirely different state academies and different certifications. I have earned state certifications in both disciplines at the basic, intermediate, advanced, management, and executive levels, enabling me to lead both divisions effectively.
In addition, to lead a large organization like the Sheriff’s Office means developing relationships with a wide array of partners so we best work together. For over 30 years I have worked hard to strengthen partnerships with local, state and federal agency and community leaders. These relationships help support local programs like Washington County’s Mental Health Response Teams and the Hawthorne Walk-In Center for behavioral health and substance use disorder, as well as our work together with our federal partners like the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend dangerous, wanted criminal fugitives. I also have solid working relationships with our judges, District Attorney’s Office, public defenders, the US Attorney’s Office and many other community and public safety organizations. My investments in leadership and relationships have been recognized by being named Sheriff of the Year by the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association for state-wide service and contributions to public safety. I have been honored to receive the Community Champion Award by Centro Cultural de Washington County, and a Friends of the Muslim Educational Trust award.
Leading at the Sheriff’s Office also means guiding a process to establish organizational goals and objectives that provide public value for our wonderful community and support the amazing people who serve at the Sheriff’s Office. It means cultivating a strong professional culture by the examples of integrity, servant-hood, and personal transparency and vulnerability. It means making hard decisions when necessary.
And while I benefited greatly from significant leadership training and experience over a 30(+) year career in the military and public safety, I believe that leadership requires continually learning and adapting. I enjoy putting leadership lessons from study and experience into practice. But mostly, I learn continuously from our well-trained, professional Sheriff’s Office leadership team and from my colleagues at other agencies and in the community. Taken together, it’s exciting and keeps me, as Sheriff, focused on ensuring our staff is well-led into the future and our county remains the safest major urban county in this state.