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Pierce County sheriff will stay elected position after council rejects proposed ballot measure

Pierce County government offices at the County City Building in Tacoma
Courtesy of Pierce County

Pierce County voters won’t get the option to choose between electing or appointing their sheriff after all. A proposed ballot measure that would have asked the question on the November ballot failed to get enough votes from Pierce County Council members. 

During a regular meeting Tuesday, the council voted 4-3 along party lines in favor of the proposal. But the county charter requires a supermajority, meaning it needed five votes to pass. 

Council members who supported the proposal said it was aimed at professionalizing the office and improving accountability. 

Councilmember Ryan Mello says we don’t elect public works directors for a reason. He said he supported the measure because the sheriff position should attract the “best and brightest” candidates when there is a vacancy. Otherwise, he says, the county runs the risk of issues arising and not being able to address them for years. 

“There’s no ability to hold that person accountable between that point and the election,” Mello said. 

Councilmember Jani Hitchen agreed. For her, she said, her support was about the energy and attention it takes to run an election every four years. She also said it’s not about a lack of trust in voters, but a lack of trust in the process for vetting candidates.

“It’s a very technical and professional job,” she said. “I am not qualified to be sheriff, and yet I could have run and I could have won.”

Opponents on the council said the voters have already spoken on this issue. Councilmember Hans Zeiger said it was unnecessary to ask the question again, since “voters have chosen to elect a nonpartisan sheriff” rather than having a partisan executive appoint one.  

Councilmember Amy Cruver echoed those remarks. Cruver said she trusts the carefully scrutinized charter amendment process, which is due for another review in 2026. 

A similar proposal that received less attention during Tuesday’s meeting would have asked voters to choose between appointing and electing their auditor. That proposal was postponed indefinitely and won't proceed to the general election. 

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson’s final term ends in December next year. Her office is in charge of elections. Sheriff Ed Troyer was elected to his first four-year term in November. It was the first open election in 20 years. Before that, the position was appointed.

Since he took office, Troyer has become the subject of county and state investigations into his conduct. But council members stressed Tuesday that the proposed ballot measure was about the office in perpetuity, not any one candidate who holds it. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify action taken on a proposal related to the elected auditor.

Kari Plog is KNKX's South Sound reporter covering people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.