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To the Editor:

If you’re unsure about Bart Olson, I can relate … He showed up in my office in Marysville in 2013, reporting for duty as a probationary sergeant for the Washington State Patrol.

I didn’t get to vote for Bart, but after vigorous and competitive testing, he had earned the right to be assigned as one of my new sergeants. Was he up for the challenge? He had a reputation as a rock-solid trooper from Ellensburg, but he didn’t know anyone in Snohomish County or up on Stevens Pass where I needed him to lead troopers to save lives and make people feel safer.

He quickly earned the respect of troopers, community groups, the local deputies, officers and courts. He was a natural leader who people found easy to talk to; he listened respectfully, and spoke with clarity. This “probationary sergeant” wasn’t intimidated by the tough tasks I laid out for him. He was focused, serious, compassionate, and he worked with steadfast determination following our motto of “Service with Humility.” I was proud to see him working side by side with his troopers, day, and night, sharing the risks and setting the example.

Bart fought for the right to lead and then re-earned it every day. He supported his most effective and hardworking troopers. He fought to unburden them from useless bureaucratic minutia, allowing them to reach higher levels of performance. Your best deputies will become even better when Bart clears obstacles out of their way.

Bart had the courage and leadership ability to confront a trooper who was not pulling his weight, letting his teammates and community down. Several of his troopers credited Bart with turning things around and bringing morale up. His troopers respected him and gelled as a team to perform at a higher level with a zest to save lives and make people feel safer.

As we grapple with the questions of police reform, racial justice, and equality, you are going to need a Sheriff who can handle evolving leadership challenges. You deserve a Sheriff who has the integrity, judgement, and vision to lead in the days to come. Bart Olson won’t coast along. He’ll earn the privilege of serving the Kittitas Valley everyday as “A Sheriff for You.”

Retired Captain E.J. Swainson

Homeland Security Division Commander, Washington State Patrol

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