The Enumclaw City Council is unequivocally against making the King County Sheriff position an appointed one. Image courtesy King County

The Enumclaw City Council is unequivocally against making the King County Sheriff position an appointed one. Image courtesy King County

Council rejects Sheriff’s Office ballot proposals promoted by county leaders

The local council believes the power behind the sheriff should be the people, not the county council.

Enumclaw-area voters will be asked in November to help decide the fate of two measures that would, if passed, rock the King County Sheriff’s Office to the core.

Members of the Enumclaw City Council were recently asked to weigh in, either lending support or rejecting the proposals. City leaders made their views crystal clear the evening of Aug. 10, unanimously rejecting both proposals.

The tandem ballot measures will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot, placed there by the King County Council through the charter amendment process. The two measures related to law enforcement are among seven amendments – all originating with the County Council – that will appear on the November ballot.

The first item would eliminate the sheriff as an elected position, taking power from the electorate and handing it to county government. If passed, the sheriff would be selected by the county executive; confirmation would be required by a majority of the nine-member council.

The second ballot item would give the King County Council the authority to specify the duties of the sheriff. Presently, the sheriff’s duties are spelled out in state law.

The concern is some circles is that the powers granted to the sheriff could be diminished.

The Enumclaw council was quick and concise in its rejection.

“I’m always in support of giving the vote to the people,” Councilman Kyle Jacobson said.

“I don’t want the King County Council to appoint the sheriff, no way,” added Councilman Anthony Wright.

A motion was quickly made and unanimously passed, indicating the council’s opposition to both proposals.


These days, when everything is viewed through a partisan political lens, both council decisions appeared to follow party lines. Council seats are officially nonpartisan, but the Associated Press noted that the three dissenting votes came from those “who have previously identified as Republicans,” referring to Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn.

The six who passed the measures have identified as Democrats, per the AP. In the majority were Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Girmay Zahilay, Joe McDermott, Dave Upthegrove and Claudia Balducci.

Dunn holds the District 9 seat on the council and represents the Enumclaw region.

While seemingly related, the two measures are independent. Voters could pass one and reject the other.

Control of the sheriff’s office has shifted with the political winds through the years. The sheriff was elected by voters until 1969 when King County transitioned to a “home rule” form of government. The sheriff then became an appointed position, a practice that lasted until 1996. In ’96, the King County Charter spelled out a return to an elected sheriff and elections have taken place every four years.


In other agenda items from their Aug. 10 meeting, members of the Enumclaw City Council:

• Agreed to a deal with King County that will allow access to Little Lake Forest Park, which will become the newest offering in the county’s park portfolio.

The county, through its Department of Natural Resources and Parks, purchased 36.72 acres of land northeast of the county-operated transfer station on Battersby Avenue. Just north of the transfer station is the former city landfill, which has been closed for years but is still monitored.

The Enumclaw Council agreed to transfer an access easement along the eastern edge of the former landfill. The city concluded the move would present no danger to the continued monitoring of the landfill property.

King County purchased acreage that originally was farmland but eventually came to be known as a popular wedding destination. The county has touted the purchase as a way to provide recreational activities while protecting the environment.

• Agreed to start their regularly-scheduled October meetings an hour earlier than normal. Sessions on Oct. 12 and 26 will begin at 6 p.m. because discussions about the 2021 city budget will be on the agenda. These meetings follow a pair of budget workshops, set for Oct. 5 and 19.

• Appointed two citizens who will serve the community as volunteers. Paul Keith Megargle was named to the Civil Service Commission, filling the Position 1 seat with a term that expires at the close of 2025. William Thode was appointed to the Position 4 seat on the city’s Park Board and will serve until the final day of 2022.

• Closed the books on a pair of major road upgrades, formally accepting the project that saw Cole Street improved between Roosevelt and Stevenson avenues and Warner Avenue improved between Semanski Street and state Route 410.

The work was completed by ICON Materials and the final bill was $601,781, or 4 percent over budget (due to additional work for water service and additional asphalt). A grant from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board paid more than $500,000 of the cost, with most of the remainder coming from the city’s Transportation Benefit District account; small contributions also came from the city’s water and natural gas departments.

• Authorized the spending of $77,000 that will bring repairs to a city-owned building on Railroad Avenue. The building (1,800 square feet) belongs to the natural gas operation and will be used to store light-sensitive polyethylene pipe and fittings.

A memo to the council noted the repairs could add another 10 to 20 years to the building’s lifespan. The building has reportedly suffered extensive water damage, a condition that will be corrected.

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