First Debate for Walla Walla Sheriff Candidates

Audrey Hecker, Staff Reporter

With the approaching Walla Walla County General Election on Nov. 6, countywide sheriff candidates Mark Crider (current Undersheriff of the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office) and Matthew Stroe (Whitman’s Director of Security) engaged in a public debate at the Gesa Powerhouse Theatre on Oct. 15. During the debate, they had the opportunity to express their own values and qualifications, as well as rebut their opponent’s claims when appropriate.

Stroe initiated the debate with his opening statement after announcements from moderator Tom Scribner, a Walla Walla City Council member.

“I’m going to go over three reasons tonight [about] … what [is] important to me,” Stroe said. “That’s my experience with the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office, my image of security and law enforcement and community.”

The current implications of law enforcement are things he hopes to transform if he is elected as Sheriff. His experience as Whitman’s Director of Security has introduced him to related challenges.

“When I got [to Whitman] there was a big divide between [the] community and Security,” Stroe said. “We promoted change by professionalism … and we represent the community which we serve. The perception of Security [on the Whitman campus] has changed because of that.”

Aside from his current position as Director of Security, Stroe worked for the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office for six years as the registered sex offender coordinator, crime scene analyst, crime analyst technician and evidence custodian.

Stroe’s longest career, however, has been his life in Walla Walla.

“I was born and raised here. My family is here… I’ve been part of this community since day one,” Stroe said. “Your problems are my problems.”

Mark Crider however, began his career in the Navy, which he maintained for ten years as a fighter jet RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He was then recruited to the FBI, where he worked for 22 years in multiple positions. He came to Walla Walla during an assignment in Spokane, Washington led him to Walla Walla, where he met current Sheriff John Turner. He was then offered the position of Undersheriff and accepted it in March 2018.

When asked why he wanted to be Sheriff, Crider cited his personal experience with the deputies of Walla Walla County.

“The professionalism, the eagerness to learn new things, and … the overall camaraderie within that office really struck me,” Crider said. “In my tenure … I want to keep them moving in the direction that they’re moving … I think I’m the one that can do that.”

Crider’s philosophy stems mainly from his own experience with, and belief in, effective leadership and the impact that can have on staff.

“I’m a big believer in [leading] from the front [and leading] by example,” Crider said. “But most [important] I think, is getting to know each one of [the staff] as an individual. You’ve got to get to know your people. If your people aren’t happy in their personal life, they’re not going to be good, productive workers.”

Stroe’s views are more community-oriented, but similarly focused on the needs of staff.

“That’s huge to me … being out with [the] community and talking [to] the people because [then] you build a relationship with the community,” Stroe said. “You [also] want to ensure the … the health of your staff. You want to be out there with them, you want to be there when they have a big tough call, you want to be the first one there responding [to] them.”

With regards to budget, Crider did not disclose his plans to increase or decrease the current budget, and does not intend to in the future.

“I think that we should argue about budget matters behind closed doors. I don’t want to see it on Facebook. I don’t want to see it on the front page of the [Union Bulletin],” Crider said. “I think all the departments working together and working behind closed doors and not publicly airing our dirty laundry [is a good idea].”

Stroe employs the opposite approach when it comes to budgeting.

“I would like to ask for an increase. I would like to get more detectives,” Stroe said. “I know that the [current] detectives are being overloaded. And you want to take some pressure off so they can investigate more cases to free up deputies.”

Despite the multiple mentions of personal attacks — in person and on social media — and otherwise unprofessional conduct by members of the Sheriff’s Office itself, Stroe and Crider were cordial with one another.

Both candidates closed with their final statements. Stroe’s unique perspective, developed by his experiences in the Sheriff’s Office and as Director of Security at Whitman, aid him in his attempts to rewrite the meaning of law enforcement and annul the fear that law enforcement has become the face of. He intends to do this by engaging further with the community and by taking advantage of his own roots in Walla Walla.

Crider’s extensive career in both the Navy and the FBI back his leadership endeavors, and his experiences within those careers have equipped him with similar tools used in a sheriff’s role. Crider plans to utilize his outside resources to better equip the local Sheriff’s Office when necessary.

The General Election for Walla Walla County is on Nov. 6 — both Stroe and Crider will be on the ballot under countywide sheriff.