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As Reichardt retires, McDermott set to take over as Skagit County sheriff

December 23, 2018
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Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt (left) will be handing the reins over to Undersheriff Don McDermott on Jan 1. The two are pictured Dec. 5 in the old county jail, where both men started their careers. The old jail was located on the top floor of the Skagit County Superior Court building.

MOUNT VERNON — After more than 30 years with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office — eight as the county’s top law enforcement official — Will Reichardt will retire in January.

Before he was elected sheriff, Reichardt worked in a variety of positions at the department, from corrections officer to chief criminal deputy and everything in between.

Still, he said, he feels like he’s never worked a day.

“I’ve always just enjoyed coming to work,” Reichardt said.

Reichardt, who said he never envisioned himself running for sheriff, was first elected after a contentious race in 2010.

“I never really felt I was that charismatic or political,” he said. “It was definitely me stepping outside my comfort zone.”

When his term ended in 2014, he decided to run again.

“I was still having too much fun,” he said.

With retirement on the horizon, Reichardt in January will hand the department’s reins over to current Undersheriff Don McDermott, who ran unopposed in the November election for sheriff.

“I feel really good about the future of the Sheriff’s Office,” Reichardt said.

McDermott has 36 years of law enforcement experience and has been a part of Reichardt’s administration since the latter was elected.

A long history

For the two men, the transition is natural. They’ve known each other since junior high school in Anacortes and both have decades of experience in the Sheriff’s Office.

“He has everything he needs to be a successful sheriff,” Reichardt said of McDermott. “He’s a good listener, there’s no question about his character and his integrity, and his heart is in the right place.”

Both began their careers in the Sheriff’s Office in the 1980s, when the Skagit County jail was located on the fourth floor of the Superior Court building.

McDermott said he got into law enforcement because of his family. He had grown up hearing about his grandfather’s adventures as a sheriff’s deputy in Montana.

“Early on, I viewed law enforcement as an honorable profession in public service,” McDermott said. “Corny as it may sound, I have always liked to help people.”

Reichardt began his career in law enforcement after first studying criminal justice at Skagit Valley College. From there, he attended Western Washington University, where he graduated in 1984 with a degree in political science.

Needing a job, Reichardt called McDermott, who was working as a corrections officer at the jail.

McDermott told Reichardt the department was looking to hire additional corrections officers in preparation for the opening of a new jail above the Sheriff’s Office.

“I worked there for three years and thought, ‘I’d be happy doing this my whole life,’” Reichardt said.

That year, McDermott said the department moved about 17 inmates from the jail in the courthouse to one above the Sheriff’s Office across the street.

In the 1990s, McDermott oversaw and helped create the department’s high risk team — a specialized group of deputies that respond to situations that might pose extra danger for law enforcement.

He also served as sergeant of the La Conner detachment and was the first sergeant of the detectives division — of which Reichardt was a member.

“I’ve worked a lot with Will,” McDermott said.

Looking back

In his extensive career, Reichardt considers the newly constructed 400-bed Skagit County Community Justice Center as one of the biggest accomplishments of his tenure as sheriff.

With the additional opportunities for inmates to leave the community justice center with educational and job opportunities, he said he’s proud to have put the new facility on what has been named “Redemption Way.”

“Having that new jail built was tremendous,” Reichardt said. “I’m very proud of getting that facility open. I’m very proud of what that jail’s become.

Reichardt also lists the department’s embracing of technology as a major accomplishment of his career.

Since he became sheriff, the department has implemented online crime reporting, digitized its evidence room, hired a detective that focuses on computer forensics, and purchased a robot for its high risk team and three unmanned aerial vehicles.

“I think we have done a really good job of keeping up on the changes in technology,” Reichardt said. “We look at things and we say, ‘That’s something we can take advantage of.’”

He also cited as examples of success the creation of the countywide Skagit MultiAgency Response Team, the re-formation of the department’s Pro-Active team and its newly formed education citation program to curb underage drinking — the only program like it in the state.

“That’s a really good example of something that’s grassroots,” Reichardt said. “I have some really smart people in the Sheriff’s Office.”

Looking forward

As sheriff, McDermott said he intends to continue to build on those successes.

“You want to keep doing the things you’re doing and just keep doing them better,” Reichardt echoed.

Going forward, McDermott said, the department will increase its presence in the community through neighborhood watch and neighborhood meetings and increasing its use of the social networking site Nextdoor.

“Bad guys use technology,” McDermott said. “So we’re just trying to stay ahead. We have great people here. They’re innovative and creative.”

His goal, he said, is to have the department be able to address issues more holistically, including by partnering with Compass Health and other organizations to get quicker help for people struggling with issues like mental health, drug abuse or homelessness.

“Our goal is to get them that help sooner rather than later,” McDermott said. “Where do we go (for that) before we even contact them.”

When McDermott steps into the position of sheriff, his administration will include some of the same people as Reichardt’s, but there will be new faces too.

Current Chief of Patrol Chad Clark will move into McDermott’s vacated undersheriff position, and current Sgt. Tobin Meyer will become chief criminal deputy. Current Sgt. Chris Baldwin will move into Clark’s vacated position as chief of patrol.

Chief of Corrections Don Marlow, who was named to the position by Reichardt after former Chief of Corrections Charlie Wend retired in 2017, will remain in his position.

Current Sgt. Annette Lindquist will move into the position of chief of administrative services, a position that will be vacated by Jackie Brunson when she is sworn in as the Skagit County treasurer.

As for Reichardt, McDermott said he will always be welcome back.

“He’s done a great service, and we will miss him here,” McDermott said.

In his retirement, Reichardt said he plans to spend more time on his hobbies, including running, and spending more time with Diane, his wife of 36 years.

“We want more memories and more time together,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have the best wing-man anyone could ask for. I can confidently say I wouldn’t have been the sheriff without her.”

While he will miss the camaraderie of the department, Reichardt said, he will also miss the work.

“I’m going to really miss trying to outsmart the criminal,” he said with a smile. “I never got outran.”

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