HERMISTON, Ore. – The Hermiston Hispanic Affairs Committee has now heard from both candidates for Umatilla County sheriff in the November election. Pendleton Police Corporal Ryan Lehnert spoke to the group in March and Sheriff Terry Rowan appeared in April.
Rowan told the group he hopes he put to rest a feeling that the sheriff’s office doesn’t respond when it’s needed, unlike the days before he was sheriff. Committee members said they felt the office didn’t respond when crimes were called in to dispatch.
“We have made some significant gains in personnel,” he said. “We’ve got more boots on the ground now, so if that same type of event were to be called in today, we would have resources to send them.”
Meanwhile, Lehnert says that members of the committee told him that group had called Rowan several times asking him to appear, but didn’t get a response until election year dawned.
“I committed to the Hispanic Advisory Committee that, if elected, I would not only show up on an election year or when I want a levy passed, but that I would build a partnership with them to solve problems that are concerns to them,” he said.
The committee also questioned both Rowan and Lehnert about deputies who appear to be more interested in a person’s legal status than in taking information about a crime committed against them. Rowan says that’s not how his officers are supposed to respond.
“You are allowed to be a victim,” he said. “We will respond to that complaint. We will set race aside, set your legal status aside. We will not be asking questions about your legal status.”
Rowan said that if people encounter deputies whose performance dissatisfies him, they should call him directly. Lehnert thinks that won’t work.
“The fact that he’s asking them to call him directly, I don’t feel that’s going to solve the issues,” Lehnert said. “Multiple citizens have told me they have tried to call him and he’s failed to return their phone calls.”
Lehnert says he will establish a county-wide citizens’ task force representative of the population of the county that will keep him advised of any difficulties or issues the public reports experiencing.
If Rowan was running unopposed or if there were more than two candidates, the sheriff’s race would be determined by voters in the May election. Because there are only two candidates, the vote is put off until the November general election.