By Chris Hendrickson, Contributing Writer
Monroe resident Sgt. Jim Upton held his official campaign kickoff event last week, announcing his bid to become the next Snohomish County Sheriff.
Upton, a 12-year veteran of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, will run against Sheriff Ty Trenary in this year’s special election. Upton and Trenary faced off for the position last June, after it was vacated by former Sheriff John Lovick, who transitioned over to the county executive’s office after Aaron Reardon’s resignation. Both Upton and Trenary testified before the Snohomish County Council in an effort to win the interim appointment, which was granted to Trenary on July 1.
The winner of November’s special election will determine who gets to finish out the current term, and the seat will be on the ballot again in 2015 for the regular four-year term. In Snohomish County, the position of sheriff is considered nonpartisan.
Sgt. Upton lives just outside the Monroe city limits with his wife, Patti. They’ve been married for 34 years and have two daughters and two granddaughters, whom they spend time with every week.
The campaign event, which was held on Wednesday, March 19, at Harvey Field in Snohomish, was attended by Upton’s supporters and friends, as well as his family. Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick spoke, as did Washington State Republican Party Executive Board Member Jim Donner.
Upton’s long-time friend, Casey Clark, gave a brief presentation which included some of Upton’s history.
“He’s a proven leader who has easily proven the ability to correct seemingly insurmountable challenges,” said Clark.
Upton joined the United States Navy when he was 17 years old, and served for 21 years, achieving the rank of Master Chief Hospital Corpsman E9, which is the highest obtainable rank. Upon his retirement Upton had achieved qualifications of aviation warfare, surface warfare and submarine warfare. Capturing all three designations was a feat that had only been accomplished by 2 percent of Navy personnel.
Upton’s highly accomplished military service includes several achievement awards and medals, including one from the President of the United States, along with numerous letters of commendation.
His career in law enforcement began in 1998 when he retired from the Navy and transitioned over to the role of fulltime police officer for the city of Snohomish where he had been a reserve officer. As a reserve officer, Upton volunteered between 30 and 40 hours per week. After three years with the Snohomish Police Department he obtained a position with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department.
In his time with the sheriff’s department Upton has worked in South County and East County, where he was a contract officer for the city of Gold Bar. Upton has been responsible for training, recruiting, monthly statistical reporting, patrol, supervising others and more. He is currently a detective sergeant at the south precinct in Mill Creek where he supervises a team of detectives focused on property crimes.
Upton received two certificates of merit from Sheriff Rick Bart; one for organizational development and the other for his safe and effective handling of an active shooter situation which occurred in Index.
Upton first began contemplating running for Snohomish County Sheriff in 2007, when Tom Greene ran against John Lovick, but decided against it. Former Sultan Police Chief Rob Beidler also campaigned that year, and Upton decided to support him instead of launching his own effort. He found the experience tremendously valuable, despite the fact that they were unsuccessful.
“We talked to a lot of people and we had some great ideas,” said Upton. “We didn’t even make it through the primary.”
Ultimately, Lovick defeated Greene in the 2007 election.
“Tom Greene’s a good man and I enjoyed working with him,” said Upton. “I learned a lot from him.”
Upton stated that one of his top objectives is to bring strong leadership back to the sheriff’s office. He also wants to focus on the department’s troubled areas, specifically the jail. Upton referred to the Snohomish County Jail as “the largest black hole of our tax dollars in the history of the state.”
“We have nine deaths right now,” said Upton. “And pending lawsuits that can be anywhere from 1 to 5 million dollars per lawsuit.”
The Snohomish County Jail has endured much scrutiny over the past 18 months, including a federal investigation, due to a number of inmate deaths that have occurred there.
Not professing to know all the answers, Upton declared that he would seek a more collaborate approach including consulting with experts to find solutions to current department issues. He stated that just because somebody is in law enforcement doesn’t necessarily mean that they have all the answers, and placing lieutenants in charge of financial matters might not be the most effective way to handle county business.
“I’m not by any means the smartest guy in the world, or perfect,” said Upton. “That’s why I usually try to surround myself with smarter people.”
“The county is not here to make money, but we sure aren’t here to lose it either,” he continued.
Upton has consistently maintained that Snohomish County’s greatest asset is the people who live in it. He asserted this perspective during Wednesday’s campaign event.
“Every person in here is the greatest asset that this county has,” said Upton.
He continually discussed fiscal responsibility in his presentation, bringing up the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office School Services Unit, which was developed last year after the shootings at the school in Newtown Conn., and fully implemented in March of 2013.
“At first blush, it sounds like a great idea that you’re going to have these deputies actively in the schools, protecting the kids,” said Upton.
He explained that in practice, the school services unit methodology might not actually be facilitating the best and most productive use of county funds.
“The problem is that those five deputies have to cover 122 schools,” said Upton.
He further expressed the importance of keeping deputies on the streets, rather than focusing on interdepartmental advancements.
“I think that there’s so much potential here in the sheriff’s office. We can do so much more with what we have,” said Upton. “I want to be a part of fixing that.”
Upton was asked about what his number primary objective would be as sheriff.
“The Constitution,” said Upton with no hesitation whatsoever. “To maintain the Constitution of the United States.”
To learn more about Sgt. Upton, please visit his website at: jimupton4sheriff.com, or his Facebook page which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/JimUptonForSheriff.