BEND, OR -- The three-way race for Deschutes County Sheriff was short-lived. La Pine resident Will Gibbons was the first to file as a challenger against current Sheriff Shane Nelson. Gibbons tells KBND News he decided to bow out after talking with Sheriff Nelson and Deputy Eric Kozowski – both of whom are running for the position. "I had a three-hour conversation in his office, with Mr. Nelson, explained to him the problems I’ve seen with the department in the last five years. Mr. Kozowski called me yesterday [Wednesday], just as a meet and greet. I informed him then that I was dropping out, so as to give him an opportunity with Mr. Nelson to go to November." If there are only two candidates in a non-partisan race, the contest bypasses the May primary and is decided by voters in the fall.
Gibbons says Sheriff Nelson contacted him last week after he filed with the County Clerk's office. "We spent three hours talking; I explained to him everything I’ve seen in the last five years, how defunct I’ve seen it is based on my past experience and my level of education and my knowledge of law enforcement." Gibbons refused to disclose where or for how long he served in law enforcement, other than to say it was a city in Oregon. Sheriff Nelson, who has been in office less than a year, did not respond to KBND's request for comment.
According to Gibbons, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office is "beyond help" and he's not supporting either candidate. "You've got two candidates running now, both in the same department, who at this point, in my opinion, seem to have had no compunction as to have done anything about it any sooner - how defunct [the department] is in serving the citizens of this community." He believes the entire department should be investigated by the state "Top to bottom," and says the recent departures of two out of three captains are symptoms of a bigger problem.
Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship confirms her office was notified by Gibbons of his plans to withdrawal. However, as of Thursday evening, he had not submitted paperwork to officially pull out of the race.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship says Gibbons submitted his withdrawal form at 3 p.m., two hours ahead of the deadline.