Saturday, February 4, 2023
Feb. 4, 2023

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John Horch sworn in as new Clark County sheriff

“I never thought when I started my career, I’d ever be in this position. And I’m truly honored that I was elected sheriff and that I get this opportunity to serve.”

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Retired judge Rich Melnick, left, administers the oath of office to new Sheriff John Horch Thursday at the Clark County Public Service Center. Melnick recalled watching Horch's career grow over the course of their 30-year friendship.
Retired judge Rich Melnick, left, administers the oath of office to new Sheriff John Horch Thursday at the Clark County Public Service Center. Melnick recalled watching Horch's career grow over the course of their 30-year friendship. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Those who packed a room on the sixth floor of the Clark County Public Service Center got to their feet in congratulations after Sheriff John Horch took his oath of office Thursday.

Horch said he was overwhelmed by all of the familiar faces. People filled seats and stood along the walls to watch retired judge Rich Melnick administer the oath.

The judge reflected on his 30-year friendship with Horch, during which he said he watched Horch’s law enforcement career grow.

“John did not have the smoothest path in his career,” Melnick said. “But I think the reason he’s here is because of that. John gained a lot of strength by confronting issues. He gained a lot of strength by not avoiding things. John is what I consider a success.”

Afterward, Horch said he started to feel choked by emotion while reading the words of commitment to his community.

“I started as a 21-year-old brash deputy,” he said. “My heart for service for our community hasn’t changed from 21 years old… to now. I decided that I can’t leave our community the way it is. I want to get back and love our sheriff’s office. That’s why I ran — public service is my number one goal and making Clark County safe and bringing back livability are issues that we’ve had here, and bringing back that pride and joy in our sheriff’s office are my main goals.”

Horch’s wife, Michelle, pinned the sheriff’s star to his chest. He thanked her for sticking with him through the challenges of a hotly contested political campaign, in which he defeated two challengers.

“I never thought when I started my career, I’d ever be in this position. And I’m truly honored that I was elected sheriff and that I get this opportunity to serve,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to going through the transition. It’s still a transition from one administration to the other, and the transition at the jail, we’re working through it all, but getting down to the issues that are facing our community.”

Horch said his first order of business will be to meet with all the employees at the agency. He said he wants to hear from them how they feel the sheriff’s office is doing and what they’d like to see from the new administration.

He also plans to meet with community groups before creating a strategic plan within the first quarter of 2023, he said.

Horch won the sheriff’s position with 54 percent of the vote in the November general election. He was most recently the chief criminal deputy in the administration of Chuck Atkins, who opted to retire this year rather than seek re-election.

Becca Robbins: 360-735-4522; becca.robbins@columbian.com; @brobbinsuo

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