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Sheriff candidates highlight goals for Pierce County

November 2, 2006

Pierce County Sheriff Everett Muhlhausen and Pierce County D.A.R.E. Officer Nancy Ortwerth have one thing in common -- both want to be sheriff.

While Muhlhausen has served Pierce County as sheriff since 2001, Ortwerth is attempting to make 2006 her first year in office. Despite Muhlhausen’s drive to continue and Ortwerth’s dreams to begin, only one will be Pierce County Sheriff after Election Day on Tuesday.

Throughout their campaigns both candidates have highlighted their goals for Pierce County, and the budget is a clear concern for the incumbent and the challenger.

During the past two to three years the budget has been fewer than $5 million, with a majority of that sum being spent on wages, Muhlhausen said.

If elected, Ortwerth will focus on the budget as a primary objective, seeing as she does not believe Pierce County residents should be responsible for financial issues, she said.

“I don’t think the people, the community itself, knows what we need,” she said.
Ortwerth’s solution to the problem is “more well-informed public opinions and open minds.”

While the budget is a pressing issue for both candidates, Ortwerth’s true area of expertise is the D.A.R.E. program.

The D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is an officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive lives free of drugs and violence, according to its Web site. 

Throughout the 29 years Muhlhausen has been working full time with the Pierce
County Sheriff’s Department, community watch programs have been his crowning achievement.

“People will have lived in a community for 15, 20 years and never known their neighbors,” he said. “They get talking, have events and know who to call. They can work amongst themselves to solve the issue.”

Community watch programs are also beneficial when people are out of town, as residents are “more alert to what is going on in the neighborhood,” he said.

An internal function Muhlhausen values is the department evaluation.

Before taking over in 2001, he had the opportunity to interview former Sheriff Hines and the rest of the staff.

“The big thing that came out was that people wanted to have accountability,” he said.

With that knowledge, Muhlhausen has spent the past five years working to build a structure for accountability, and in the spring of 2006 he reevaluated the department.

This reevaluation showed Muhlhausen one clear issue was on his staff’s minds -- a shrinking budget.

“It is going to affect our way of doing business,” he said of budget restrictions.

It appears the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department will be undergoing an evaluation regardless of who wins the election.

According to her Web site, www.nancyortwerthforsheriff.com, Ortwerth lists her internal goals as improving communications and teamwork, restoring department morale, and conducting a complete and unbiased assessment of the department. 

Muhlhausen’s five years as Pierce County sheriff have left him with one concrete impression.

“I like being sheriff,” he said. “It has given me the opportunity to form a department that I am proud of.”