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King County Council takes steps to appoint next sheriff

KNKX photo

King County will no longer be electing its sheriff. Voters approved a charter amendment that directs the county to appoint its top law enforcement officer. The County Council is planning how to go about making the change.

Under the measure approved by voters, King County's current elected sheriff, Mitzi Johanknecht, is allowed to serve out her term, which runs through 2021. Meanwhile, the King County Council is going about preparing for the appointment of the next sheriff. Councilman Rod Dembowski says one of the first steps is to create an advisory committee to help shape the process. He says it will be a broad-based committee.

“We’ll have folks from the unincorporated area, from contract cities, civil rights leaders, reformers and law enforcement representatives," he said. "That's the vision to bring folks in to advise on who we would be looking for in this national recruiting effort."

He said there is also interest in having family members of people killed by sheriff deputies on the committee, which will be appointed after the first of the year.

One of the main selling points for appointing, rather than electing, a sheriff is that you can recruit nationally. King County will be an outlier, though. Currently, all other counties in the state continue to elect their sheriffs.

The recommendation to move to an appointed sheriff in King County came from a charter review commission last year. The commission comes together every 10 years to review the county's charter and recommend updates and changes.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.