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Sheriff’s candidates agree that big changes lie ahead

Gardner, Atkins vie to succeed Clark County's longtime top cop Lucas

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Published: October 22, 2014, 5:00pm

Shane Gardner

Age: 44

Years active: 16

Experience: Currently a sergeant at the sheriff’s office. Previously served as a soldier in the U.S. Army and as a commissioned officer in the National Guard. Has a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University.

Notable endorsements: Chief Civil Deputy Erin Nolan, former Republican County Commissioner Marc Boldt, Vancouver City Councilors Alishia Topper and Larry Smith.

Campaing money raised: $55,502.

Website: www.shanegardner.com

Chuck Atkins

Age: 60

Years active: 35

Experience: Atkins rose through the ranks of the sheriff’s office, serving as an assistant chief and retiring with the rank of commander.

Notable endorsements: Undersheriff Joe Dunegan, Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik, Corrections Chief Ric Bishop, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Campaign money raised: $93,555.

Website: www.atkinsforsheriff.com

When Sheriff Garry Lucas announced earlier in the year that he wouldn’t seek re-election, questions swirled about who would replace him.

With less than a month to go before the general election, the contenders have been whittled down to two: Shane Gardner, a current sheriff’s office sergeant, and Chuck Atkins, a retired sheriff’s commander.

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Whoever wins the Nov. 4 election will become the county’s first new top cop in 24 years. Both candidates say that, regardless of who’s elected, the sheriff’s office is going to see big changes in the years ahead.

Atkins said providing reliable policing at an affordable cost is going to be a challenge in the future. The sheriff’s office is on the cusp of transitioning to new radio equipment and implementing a regional records management system, both significant undertakings.

“It’s going to be a drain on the public in terms of money,” Atkins said.

Gardner agreed, saying that the road ahead is going to be a challenging one for law enforcement.

Gardner said he added former Washington County, Ore., Sheriff Rob Gordon to his team — promising to make him undersheriff, if he’s elected — to add experience to his campaign.

“I think this guy has been there and done that, and he has led by example all the way,” Gardner said.

Gardner acknowledged he doesn’t have as many years of experience as Atkins, but said he has a vision for the office and leadership credentials going back to his nine years of military service.

Top issues in the election are experience and vision, with both candidates saying they’d be the best choice to replace Lucas following his 24-year tenure. Atkins points to his three decades in the sheriff’s office, adding that Gardner had to bring in experience from the outside.

“Shane hasn’t been there long enough to experience those upper levels — not that he won’t,” Atkins said.

Shane Gardner

Age: 44

Years active: 16

Experience: Currently a sergeant at the sheriff's office. Previously served as a soldier in the U.S. Army and as a commissioned officer in the National Guard. Has a bachelor's degree from Central Washington University.

Notable endorsements: Chief Civil Deputy Erin Nolan, former Republican County Commissioner Marc Boldt, Vancouver City Councilors Alishia Topper and Larry Smith.

Campaing money raised: $55,502.

Website: <a href="http://www.shanegardner.com">www.shanegardner.com</a>

Chuck Atkins

Age: 60

Years active: 35

Experience: Atkins rose through the ranks of the sheriff's office, serving as an assistant chief and retiring with the rank of commander.

Notable endorsements: Undersheriff Joe Dunegan, Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik, Corrections Chief Ric Bishop, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Campaign money raised: $93,555.

Website: <a href="http://www.atkinsforsheriff.com">www.atkinsforsheriff.com</a>

Gardner said he’s adding people to his team to ease the transition, recognizing that it is going to pose a challenge.

Meanwhile, both candidates have lamented the partisan nature of the race. Gardner is running as a nonpartisan, and has said the office isn’t about party politics. Atkins is a Republican and has received support from many prominent county Republicans, but he said the party wouldn’t define him as a sheriff.

“The fact that this is a partisan race, I was very open to say who I am, a Republican, and I lean on the conservative side,” Atkins said. “But no police officer in this community has ever questioned someone’s political belief.”

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