Sheriff's Lewis calls it a career
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:32 PM
"Goodbye WayneThe public is invited to attend Lt. Wayne Lewis' farewell party Saturday, June 3 at the Sierra Country Club, which is off Libbey Road. The barbecue will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a farewell roast. Dress is casual. Anyone who wants to speak or has a story can contact Evan Tingstad at the Sheriff's Department, 678-4422. 'Guy who gets things done' is doneSheriff's Lt. Wayne Lewis calls it a careerThe sign on the wall of Wayne Lewis' disheveled office, covered in a flurry of paper and equipment, nearly says it all:Wayne's World, Life Safety Operations. If it slips, slides, floods, sinks, burns, explodes, drifts away or gets lost, then it's our gig.For the last 30 years, Lewis has carved a unique position for himself in the Island County Sheriff's Office. He's taken on so many different responsibilities over those years that nobody in the office seems certain what his official title is.He's a lieutenant. He's the fire marshal. His friends call him the admiral because he's in charge of the department's three-boat marine safety unit, as well as search and rescue. He's head of operations, which means he fixes what's broken.But his reign as the guy who gets stuff done, as Detective Russ Lindner describes him, will be over by the end of the month. He's finally retiring so that he can dedicate his time to his other many interests.Replacing him is going to be tough. Sheriff Mike Hawley said he'll probably have to divvy up Lewis' jobs to several different people. Wayne is so unique, he said. I don't have anyone who can do all that he does.Lindner, who will be taking over the marine safety unit after Lewis leaves, said he has an extremely large pair of shoes to fill.Several of his colleagues describes Lewis as a jack of all trades, but that seems almost like an understatement.In his free time, Lewis - who's been a scuba diver and an underwater photographer since 1963 - started his own charter boat service for diving called Keystone Marine. He works part-time for a blacksmith in Anacortes and plans to start his own blacksmithing business in Coupeville after he retires. During his summer vacations, he's been a river boat guide in both Canada and Idaho and has a river-guide license in both states. In addition, he raises parrots at his home.Lewis said his unusual number of extracurricular activities have been a good balance to his professional work, which can be morbid, sad or downright dangerous.People don't call a cop when they are having a good time, he said, so I got the chance to be around people who are there just to have fun.His career as a patrol deputy started out with a bang. He exchanged gunfire with one of the three men robbing a liquor store on Camano Island in 1971. A bullet hit him in the abdomen, going in one side and coming out the other.Later, Lewis and fellow deputy Ron Buckinger ran the photo and ID department. They photographed and analyzed crime scenes, took fingerprints and handled evidence.Lewis said there are some things he doesn't like to think about. He was friends with deputies William Heffernan and John Saxerud, who were shot and killed in the county jail in 1987. He had to photograph the scene. That still eats at me, he said.He was involved with the marine safety unit when it began in the early 1980s, and later started running it. In 1991, the county got rid of the emergency services manager and the fire marshal, replacing them with Lewis. On top of that, he became the operations lieutenant and the traffic safety officer.Lewis has served under seven different sheriffs through both good and bad times. While the department was being ripped apart by internal strife and allegations of sexual harassment in the mid 1990s, Lewis said he simply stayed out of the in-house politics by staying his friendly, laid-back self.I've never met anyone who doesn't like him, Lindner said. He always has a helping hand. He's an all-around likeable guy. His friends of the department say they've amassed a lot of stories about Lewis - most of which aren't fit for a family newspaper - and plan to roast him at his retirement party June 3.Chief Criminal Deputy Evan Tingstad, for example, tells a story about a small earthquake that rocked the island back in 1985. Sheriff Owen Burt's first reaction was to drive to Lewis' house. He stood in the front yard and yelled, We've had an earthquake, we've had an earthquake, until Lewis leaned out of his door and calmly said, it'll be OK. The sheriff ran to Lewis for help, Tingstad explained with a laugh, just like everyone else did. "