Clark County’s soon-to-be new sheriff, Carter Harris, was sitting in the corner of the sheriff’s office headquarters in downtown Vancouver Wednesday morning playing with a plastic toy barn. Nearby a crowd of sheriff’s office personnel, some wearing specialized equipment, were waiting for their new boss to take center stage.
Carter, 4, who was wearing a department-issued uniform, was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2010 and was waiting to become Clark County’s latest participant in the Washington State “Chief for a Day” program.
“I think you’re ready to go, bud,” said Sgt. Shane Gardner, who was pinning a name tag on the boy’s white button-up shirt and several stars on his collar.
Gardner introduced Carter to Sheriff Garry Lucas, who was wearing a white shirt, green tie and pants that matched Carter’s.
“He has the same stars you have,” Gardner said. “Nobody else does.”
Gardner explained to the boy that he would soon be the boss of the dozens of employees waiting in the lobby, including a deputy in SWAT gear and several others with specialty uniforms.
The boy took it all in while staying close to his mom, Robin Harris.
“Are you ready?” she whispered into his ear.
After a quick family introduction by Sheriff Lucas, Carter promised to uphold the laws of the United States and state of Washington. He then signed his name on a certificate. Things were official after his mom pinned on his sheriff’s badge.
“Thanks,” he told the crowd there for his ceremony, before his mom asked him to smile for the photo op. He then ran to his dad, Dennison Harris, and gave him a high-five.
The boy was taking the job in stride — answering questions from reporters, interacting with sheriff’s office personnel and promising to put bad guys in jail. One sergeant joked with a few others that he was going to ask the new boss for a raise.
“It’s really exciting,” Carter’s mom said of the event. “To be a part of this is just amazing.”
After grabbing a few brownies, juice and a chocolate mint or two, Carter was taken back to his office. He didn’t hesitate to put his feet up, rolling his black dress shoes on the sheriff’s desk and squirming in the chair in front of newspaper and TV cameras.
“He’s got his feet up; that’s awesome,” Sgt. Gardner said to Carter’s dad.
Change of pace
Dad Dennison Harris said going through the diagnosis and treatment was hard on the family, but his son’s positive attitude inspired them.
He remembers Carter getting a blood transfusion the day he was diagnosed.
“He said, ‘Dad, I’m feeling all better now. Maybe I’m not sick anymore,’” Dennison said.
Carter is still going through chemotherapy but is feeling much better, his mom said.
The sheriff’s office program will be a nice change of pace from last summer, when Carter was going through treatment in the hospital, she added.
The “Chief for a Day” officially happens Aug. 16, but the sheriff’s office made things start early so Carter can attend a series of events through the summer.
Robin Harris is looking forward to the series of events, including Carter riding in the sheriff’s boat in the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands this weekend and being grand marshal of the Felida Children’s Parade on July 4.
“Hey Carter, you did a great job today pal,” Gardner said while crouching down by the boy.
Gardner, who is organizing things, told the boy he would also get to attend a few training events throughout the summer to keep an eye on his staff.
Part way through Gardner’s sentence, Carter scurried off to a nearby table and grabbed a treat.
Gardner told the family it wasn’t the first time he was passed up for a cookie.
Paul Suarez: firstname.lastname@example.org.