Two vie for open sheriff seat

Two high-profile Clallam County government department heads will not seek new terms in office in the Nov. 8 general election as a host of elected officials approach the May 16-20 filing week.

Director of Community Development Mary Ellen Winborn and Sheriff Bill Benedict said last week they will not run for one more four-year stint.

Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King and Deputy Marc Titterness, both of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, have registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission for Benedict’s position, allowing them to seek and spend campaign donations.

King registered as a candidate with the PDC on Feb. 28.

Titterness filed Dec. 20, publicly announcing his run for office this week following a fundraiser Feb. 27 in Sequim.

Benedict, 72 in August, will end his fourth four-year term in December, the longest tenure of any Clallam County sheriff.

Throwing his support Tuesday behind King, he said he made it widely known during his 2018 campaign that he would not seek re-election.

“I think everybody has a use-by date, and honestly, it would hard for me, hard for my game, to be as sharp as I should be if I continue beyond this.”

King, 46, is the married father of a 23-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter.

He was born in Port Angeles and grew up in Forks. His wife, Brenda, is a Forks High School teacher.

“My whole career has been focused on holding people accountable and finding justice for victims,” he said.

“I don’t believe there’s a greater purpose in life.”

King has been in law enforcement since he was 19, serving as a Forks Police Department reserve officer, on the La Push Police Department and with the sheriff’s office since 2001.

He was a sergeant from 2008-2015 and has been chief criminal deputy, the third ranking supervisor behind sheriff and undersheriff, since 2015. King is head of department operations and commander of the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“I have the experience, the command-level experience,” he said.

“My current opponent doesn’t have that experience.”

King said his priorities, if elected, will include maintaining the department’s accreditation and expanding the jail at the courthouse under a potential five-year plan that could lead to relocation of administrative staff and records division.

He said the topic of Benedict’s successor has been discussed extensively by the department’s command staff.

“A good organization always has a succession plan,” he said.

Benedict said King has attended the FBI Academy and state Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs meetings.

“We’ve more or less prepared him for this,” Benedict said. “I look forward to him taking over as sheriff.”

Titterness, 45, is the married father of a son, 23, and two daughters ages 21 and 18. His wife, Heather, is a Port Angeles School District middle school teacher.

A Kansas native, Titterness was a corrections officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections from 2006-2007, a deputy for the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas from 2007-2011, a Clallam County sheriff’s office corrections officer from 2011-2016 and a Clallam County sheriff’s deputy since 2016.

Before going into law enforcement, Titterness was a remodeling contractor and a restaurant manager.

King supervises Titterness’s supervisor.

Titterness said he told King last summer he was running for sheriff.

“He told me he did not know if he wanted to run,” Titterness said.

“I don’t know what changed his mind, other than the sheriff has really been after him to run.”

Titterness said he assumed there was a plan of succession for Benedict’s departure.

“The sheriff is not like a monarch,” Titterness said.

“The people choose the sheriff who represents them. It’s their job to give the people a voice.”

If elected, Titterness said he will make reopening the jail to fuller capacity a main priority to accommodate more arrestees than those incarcerated for violent felonies.

“It needs to be open for business, to be open for public safety,” he said. “It’s going to take someone who understands corrections, who knows corrections, to make that happen.

“The number one priority is, we have to address staffing issues down at the jail and on patrol.”

Titterness said he would be proactive recruiting deputies in the community.

Kevin Paul Moore of Sequim registered for the position on March 3 but responded to the Peninsula Daily News in an apologetic email that he was withdrawing from the election the same day.

“Marc Titterness (and) Brian King are two great candidates for Sheriff, (and) we are lucky to have them as members of our community. I do not wish to make a joke out of the Sheriff’s race.”

Moore said he had had “a very, very bad experience” involving the sheriff’s office.

Moore said in a later email that he has notified the PDC that he is no longer a candidate for sheriff.

Other county races

Republican West End-Port Angeles-area county commissioner Bill Peach said on March 2 he “probably” will run for a third term.

“That’s because I haven’t filed yet with the Public Disclosure Commission,” Peach said in a voice message. “Once I do that, I’ll be very open about what my plans are.”

Assessor Pam Rushton, completing her fourth term, said she is undecided.

“I’ll declare later on one way or another,” she said last week.

“I feel great about the job.”

Incumbent county Prosecuting Attorney-Coroner Mark Nichols, Auditor Shoona Riggs and Treasurer Teresa Marchi could not be reached for comment.

None had registered with the PDC as of March 7.

Winborn, 62, a two-term incumbent filling the only elected land-use director position in the U.S., said last week she doubts she will return to her architectural practice.

“I knew when it was time to move on from my architectural practice and it’s time to move on from this job,” she said.

“I’ve done 98 percent of what I set out to do. It’s just just time to move on.”

She counted as accomplishments passage of a countywide shoreline master program and a stormwater program.

“It’s not an easy job,” Winborn said. “It takes a lot out of you and it takes it every single day.”

Marc Titterness
Mary Ellen Winborn
Bill Benedict