KITSAP COUNTY — When the primary ballots are mailed out next week, there will only be one choice for Kitsap County sheriff as Sheriff Gary Simpson is running unopposed.
Simpson, who ran unopposed and became sheriff in 2014, is in the midst of completing his first term. A South Kitsap graduate, Simpson has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 34 years. In May, he announced his intention to seek reelection to continue the progress made on the goals he set for his first term.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to stick around for another term is to get the future set for where we want to be, but also deal with the immediate issues we have,” he said.
One of the changes made during his tenure was to increase the communication and collaborative efforts between departments. Simpson said that while the various departments were doing their jobs well, each individual department seemed to have its own direction, rather than an agency-wide direction, and subsequently were not coordinating as well as they could have been.
“For instance, if the detectives decided they were going to do a drug bust on a group of people they’ve been working on for quite awhile, they might go out and do it,” Simpson said. “But they might not involve the patrol officers, so they’re not aware of it. And the jail isn’t prepared to accommodate the extra people.”
Simpson also said he made it a priority to build good working relationships with local law enforcement agencies as well as the community at large.
“I think that within the community we’ve built some great relationships with a lot of different places,” Simpson said. “We are increasing our involvement in the schools with more school resource officers. At Olympic High, our resource officer ended up being the guest speaker for their graduation. They voted him as the speaker they wanted.”
The department continues to face challenges, Simpson said, mainly financial ones. Costs continue to rise, but revenue does not. Meeting mandates from the state can be difficult as funding to meet those mandates is cut. Simpson said he is not yet certain what the solution is, whether it’s simply getting more funding from the county or perhaps some kind of law enforcement levy.
“The public needs to know what our challenges are,” Simpson said. “They have a right and a need to know what we can and can’t do. It’s going to take more support than we have in county government.”
Simpson said he is fortunate to be working and living in Kitsap County in the Northwest where law enforcement has “a lot of good support in our community.”
“I truly believe Kitsap County is a great place to live, work and visit,” Simpson said. “That’s part of our vision. We have some great people working at the Sheriff’s Office — everyone on down to the support staff is very diligent and creative in what they do, but they need the help of more people to do what they do.