Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt wrote an important column for the Washington County Insider. Follow the link to read the whole thing, but the Sheriff brings up a lot of great points, and great concerns, about the movement to consolidate in Washington County.
A few years ago, Administrator Schoeman asked me if I thought those municipalities could be now convinced to combine their dispatch centers with the Sheriffs Center. My answer was no. He then suggested that if operation of the Communications Center and Radio System was transferred from the Sheriff to the Administrator (Mr. Schoeman) the municipalities would agree because his wasn’t a “political” position.
In my opinion, the County Administrator has become the most political position in Washington County government. This opinion is supported by Mr. Schoeman’s current plan to add a second full time Assistant Administrator who will serve as a lobbyist and communicator to other government entities. Mr. Schoeman and the Executive Committee’s focus is not on delivering necessary services to the public, but influencing (politicize) all areas of government into regionalizing. Having a county-wide Communications Center and Radio System operated by the Administrator would politicize it. Mr. Kriefall stated he would incentivize the municipalities with sales tax money. This is just the beginning of public safety being steered by politics instead of what is in the best interest of the community.
Currently, and for at least the past 30 years, no single government position in Washington County is more involved in all areas of public safety than the Sheriff. It does not mean the Sheriff controls public safety, but he has a constitutional duty to ensure it is provided. The Sheriff is accountable to the people directly; not to mayors, administrators or elected boards.
The above example shows why maintaining jurisdictions and elected offices are important to government accountability. The separation of authority and responsibility is important. It may cost more to have multiple units of government, but without them you will have no accountability to the people. Regional governments are only one step away from a single authoritarian state government.
Over the past few years, I have discussed with both candidates for Sheriff the above stated ideas and how they relate to the Sheriff’s authority and responsibility for public safety. I believe both agree the Sheriff should remain in charge of the county Communication Center and Radio System and that combining with another county would be a mistake. I also believe that both candidates agree that municipalities would have to join the county Communication Center voluntarily and if they did, that the Sheriff should remain in charge for it to be successful.