BEND, OR -- The two candidates for Deschutes County Sheriff squared off at their first forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters, Wednesday night. Deputy Eric Kozowski is running against current Sheriff Shane Nelson.
Kozowski pointed to recent high-profile departures by two captains for misconduct as reasons for change. "The Sheriff’s Office has some serious problems. These problems not only impact your wallet but your safety. Continual mismanagement and leadership failures have caused these problems." He told the crowd, "It’s unfortunate we’ve had these issues that have distracted us from our ability to protect and serve the community. I think a lot of it comes down to lack of leadership, lack of oversight.
Sheriff Nelson responded. "Of course we’ve had two captains fall while I’ve been your Sheriff and I don’t take that lightly. But, what I hope that you see is how I reacted to that and how your Sheriff’s office maintains its excellent, superior public safety and service in the aftermath of that." He added, "We employ human beings – you can’t take the “human” out of human being, nor would we want to. It’s why we’re good at what we do. It’s what we do in response to those missteps and those mistakes and I hope you know we’ll take care of business."
Kozowski has been a deputy with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Department for six years, and was a deputy in Wallowa County prior to moving to Central Oregon. Sheriff Nelson has been with the department 22 years and served as Corrections Division Captain prior to being appointed Sheriff last year.
Because there are only two candidates, the race will be decided in November.