The Deschutes County Sheriff's race between appointed incumbent Shane Nelson and Eric Kozowski is one of the most heated and interesting local races. Nelson has 22 years experience with the department, having progressed through the ranks before being appointed sheriff 15 months ago, while Kozowski joined the department in 2010. Both men articulate the need to improve department morale and to restore public trust in a department that has been rocked by scandal.
The department has suffered through incidents that should never occur within law enforcement. The theft of more than $200,000 by former Capt. Scott Beard that he used to pay for personal items during an affair with another department subordinate grabbed the top headlines. Beard was recently sentenced to five years in prison.
Two other captains also left the department following affairs with female subordinates, a violation of department policies. And, two more internal investigations into potential improprieties are underway.
Kozowski says it's time for new blood to change a leadership void in the department and he casts Sheriff Nelson as part of the rubber stamp, good old boy philosophy that has created a department sidetracked with distractions.
After Nelson's appointment by Deschutes County Commissioners, Kozowski says he doesn't see the change the department needs and alleges it continues to be complacent and unaccountable. He says the department can do much more for county residents both operationally and fiscally.
Kozowski's background includes both public and private sector experience. He served in the U.S. Marines for six years and ran a high tech business for 15 years.
Sheriff Shane Nelson is a life-long Bend resident who was appointed to fill the remainder of Larry Blanton's term following Blanton's retirement. After graduating from OSU, Nelson returned home where he joined the Deschutes County Sheriff's Department in 1993. He rose to the top as operations division commander and corrections division commander before being appointed sheriff.
Despite criticism by his opponent, Nelson speaks with conviction and maintains the department is pro-actively changing for the better. Change in a department with a $46 million budget takes time and requires calculated thought and careful implementation. He promises he won't tolerate the improprieties that have tarnished the department. We believe him.
With only 15 months in office, we think Sheriff Nelson is laying a thoughtful and solid foundation that will shed the past and transition to the future, and he should be allowed time to complete those changes. His long experience within the department provides the institutional insight that will be valuable to public safety in Deschutes County.
The City Council race between Doug Knight and Bill Moseley has been easily the most heated and contentious of the season thus far. And with good reason. The two candidates—while they are both successful businessmen and would appear to have more in common than not – rarely agree on policy and make a point of striking a hard contrast with each other.
This race has the hallmarks of what could have been a great showcase for all of the other City Council races if those candidates had serious challengers or were not racing unopposed. Moseley is making a case that the City Council and the city staff need some serious management and redirection. His background in running a successful local software company makes him a good choice for a position where those skills are needed. Moseley is running on a platform showing no shortages of places where the City Council went rogue and began chasing side projects, such as squabbles with the Chamber of Commerce, the gas tax and its ill-timed special election, the climate change initiative and incivility on the council.
However, we do not share his view on a broken City Council—in fact we're impressed with how much this council has accomplished, and Doug Knight can take a large measure of credit for it.
We supported the gas tax—and while the timing was suspect, it remains the only viable option we have seen for filling the shortfall in city revenues and deriving another revenue stream from tourism. The climate change initiative is a bold piece of leadership and is, we hope, representative of the values we share as a city. Knight took a big political risk by championing both of these issues.
We are not sure how the incivility "issue" on the council got elevated from gossip to talking point but we hope it leaves the political arena. Knight can be abrasive and Moseley showed in the Chamber candidate forum that he could match Knight's demeanor pound for pound – and we hope that doesn't change. The forum was lively and substantive and no worse for either candidate's passion.
Moseley may serve the city well. Most of his current shortcomings stem from his lack of political experience. His articulate, smart discussion has made this the race to watch and could translate into good governance. But Knight has served the city well during his term and deserves to be rewarded for the work that he has accomplished. Vote for Knight.