LONGVIEW — The current sheriff, a Woodland police sergeant and a man who is facing possible conviction for felony assault and drug charges are vying to be the next Cowlitz County sheriff.
Three names will appear under the sheriff position on Cowlitz County Aug. 2 primary ballots: first-term Sheriff Brad Thurman, Woodland Patrol Sgt. Rob Gibbs and accused offender Ronald James Lundine. The two candidates with the most votes will go on to the November General Election.
Thurman and Gibbs filed in preference of the Republican Party, while Lundine did not specify an affiliated party for the four-year partisan position. Each candidate paid the filing fee of $1,235.77, which is 1% of the annual salary of $123,577.
Primary ballots are scheduled to be mailed on July 15 and are ballots are due by 8 p.m. Aug. 2 by mail or dropped off at ballot boxes. A mailed ballot does not require a stamp.
Thurman was elected to the four-year position in 2018 when he ran against former sheriff Mark Nelson in Thurman’s first elected role. The Kelso-area resident said this October marks his 35th year in law enforcement, all with the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, working positions such as a patrol deputy, detective sergeant and drug investigator.
Thurman, 58, said several new deputy positions were created during his tenure. The R.A. Long graduate said 11 total positions were hired since August, and the sheriff’s office has 65 employees and more than 100 volunteers. He said staffing under his tenure has been restored “to the same level we last had in 2008.”
“This is remarkable when compared to law enforcement agencies nationwide that are struggling to fill openings,” he said.
Recruiting new hires is among his greatest achievements as sheriff, Thurman said, as well as thinking outside the box to add more deputies on the street. For example, he said four deputies were moved to patrol when contracted security replaced the deputies on building coverage.
Thurman said the sheriff’s office “will soon have” four mental health and substance abuse counselors to work with deputies to reduce repeat offenders and help people seek treatment as opposed to going through the justice system.
Gibbs, 42, said he has served seven years at the Woodland Police Department and is currently a patrol sergeant. The Kelso High School graduate also served seven years in the U.S. Army, in which he led soldiers during deployments in Iraq and achieved the rank of staff sergeant.
Gibbs was elected to the Kelso School Board in November 2015 when he ran unopposed for position 3.
If elected as sheriff, Gibbs said his goal would be to “place the jail under the authority of the sheriff’s office,” because “the accused need to know there are consequences for their crimes and they will be held accountable.”
The Cowlitz County Jail is operated by the county, said Cowlitz County Corrections Director Marin Fox. She said “the Cowlitz County Jail has been a separate department (not part of the sheriff’s office) since 1991.”
Gibbs said the county needs leadership and trust in law enforcement restored.
“As sheriff, I will selflessly serve our county with integrity, accountability and honesty,” he wrote in his candidate statement in the Cowlitz County online voters’ guide.
Lundine, 72, of Toutle did not return emails from The Daily News requesting an interview. The person who answered the phone to the number listed under his candidate filing information said it was the wrong number. Messages Lundine left on The Daily News voicemail could not be understood.
Lundine’s statement in the Cowlitz County online voters’ guide is also difficult to understand and includes fragmented thoughts such as “Army 68 to 71,” “Butte College,” “rancher,” and “I learn to farm.”
Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Troy Brightbill said department staff has had numerous interactions with Lundine, including some where he was the reporting party, as well as the incident in which he is facing resolution where he allegedly assaulted a neighbor.
Cowlitz County deputies arrested Lundine on Feb. 11, 2021, after he hit his neighbor in the head with a pistol, according to police records. Lundine is charged in Cowlitz County Superior Court with two felonies — third-degree assault for creating bodily harm with a weapon and possession of a controlled substance — as well as three counts of the misdemeanor of the use or possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
Lundine was released from jail on a $2,500 bond filed Feb. 12, 2021. His next hearing is scheduled for Thursday.