She's out of jail after 33 years

Jackie Webster rose through the ranks, retiring as Clark County jail chief

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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When Jackie Webster started working for the Clark County Sheriff's Office 33 years ago as a custody officer, the county's 300-bed jail was just a design. A plan.

Sheriff Garry Lucas can still recall Webster escorting inmates out of the back seat of a police car.

The jail facility built in 1984 has changed, added 269 more beds and otherwise expanded over the years, much like Webster's career. She rose up through the ranks and now, at 61, retires as the Clark County jail chief, a position she's held since 2005.

Commissioner Steve Stuart presented Webster with a plaque, honoring her years of service, at her Tuesday retirement party.

"It's one of the hardest jobs in the county, what you do," Stuart said. "I don't envy any of the work you've done, but I appreciate it."

He also invited her to attend public hearings.

"You're a citizen now. Say what you want," Stuart said with a smile.

Webster grew up in Vancouver, graduating in 1970 from Hudson's Bay High School.

It's easy to see, by the amount of hugs Webster received at her party, that she forged many friendships during her time at the jail.

Webster and jail operations support Cmdr. Mike Anderson, who has worked with Webster her entire career, didn't always get along. Now he considers her not only his former boss, but one of his best friends.

"It's been a blessing to work with her," Anderson said. "She's a community treasure."

He presented her with a luggage set in her favorite color — purple. Webster and her husband plan to vacation in San Francisco and at a dude ranch in Mexico.

Retirement, however, hasn't quite set in yet for Webster. After decades of working with a difficult population that includes the mentally ill, geriatric, violent and those with physical or mental disabilities, she plans to "just rest for a while and sleep in."

"There's no other job where you get to do what we do," Lucas said.

Or see or smell, Webster added with a laugh.

Current work center Cmdr. Ric Bishop takes over Webster's job as jail chief. The job will be a challenge, but he's looking forward to it.

Caring for those with mental illnesses and disabilities continues to be a priority with the uptick in attempted jail suicides and jail deaths over the past few years. Maintaining inmate health and safety continues to be a challenge. The jail isn't set up to be a hospital, Webster said in a 2012 interview.

"Unfortunately," she said, "we'll always have a job."