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A Clark County Sheriff's sergeant announced Monday that he's running for sheriff in the 2014 election, making him the fourth candidate to enter the race.
Shane Gardner, 44, said he thought about running for sheriff for a long time and was approached by people who thought he would make a worthy candidate. Gardner is running on a nonpartisan platform because he felt that identifying himself with either political party was polarizing.
"The sheriff's office isn't a partisan place," he said.
Gardner has been with the sheriff's office since 1998. He was a patrol deputy for a few years before he became a detective with the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force, now called the Clark-Vancouver Drug Task Force.
Gardner now works as a community outreach sergeant. In that unit, Gardner said he builds community relationships and gets to see what happens when people who make mistakes are connected with resources and assimilated back into the community. He sees it as the positive side of law enforcement and the "why" behind police work.
Community outreach leads programs such as the Neighbors on Watch, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, and Clark County Explorers. Part of Gardner's responsibilities is to provide crime prevention training and supervise the county's school resource officers.
The sheriff's office, he said, does much more than arrest people. Police set the tone for how the community views criminals. Gardner said he calls people he's arrested "knuckleheads" rather than "bad guys" because they've made mistakes and aren't inherently bad people.
Many deputies, he said, talk to people sitting in the back of their patrol cars on the way to the Clark County Jail and try to offer advice on getting their life back on track. Despite these pep talks, deputies arrest the same people again and again.
"What we do is sometimes depressing," Gardner said. "All we ever see is people at their worst."
Police can connect those people with the resources they need to turn their lives around, Gardner said, pointing to the success of the Jail Reentry Program that helps reduce recidivism.
Gardner describes himself as active in the community. "There hasn't been a time when I haven't stepped forward," he said.
He's part of the Rotary Club of Vancouver, has been on the Substance Abuse Advisory Board and the board of directors for Leadership Clark County, and he chairs the PREVENT! Coalition of Clark County and the Wildwood Neighborhood Association.
Gardner is a Clark County native, who graduated from Mountain View High School in 1988 and married his high school sweetheart a few years later at Crossroads Community Church. They've attended the church for 30 years.
Before working at the sheriff's office, Gardner served in the Army and the National Guard. He earned a bachelor's degree in speech communications from Central Washington University.
So far, three other people have expressed interest in running for Clark County Sheriff: retired sheriff's office commanders Chuck Atkins and John Graser, and former deputy Ed Owens. The sheriff serves a four-year term and is paid $104,244 annually. Six-term incumbent Republican Sheriff Garry Lucas, 71, who took office in 1990, has not announced yet whether he will run again.
The filing period for 2014 election candidates runs from May 12-16.