Budget woes may have cost Island County a future sheriff

Island County budget problems and subsequent austerity measures have had at least one unforeseen consequence. As a result of cuts, a famous police officer has postponed plans to run for county sheriff.

Lynnwood Police Officer Mark Brinkman is known as a national leader in DUI enforcement. He has received numerous state and county honors for his uncanny ability to find intoxicated drivers. He also happens to be a South Whidbey resident.

Brinkman is good friends with Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, who ran for the office after a career in the state patrol. Brinkman explained that he had planned, with Brown’s approval, to run for sheriff in 2014. Brown is seeking reelection this year and had planned to retire after that.

But the plans have changed. Brinkman said he simply can’t afford to be sheriff. The county commissioners switched all non-represented employees, including elected officials, to a less expensive health insurance plan. Brinkman said switching to Island County’s plan would cost him an extra $600 a month to keep his family covered.

In addition, he said the job itself pays $10,000 less than what he’s making as a Lynnwood police officer. The Island County sheriff currently earns just over $86,000 a year, plus benefits. The commissioners are considering doing away with the automatic 5 percent pay increase for elected officials in 2011.

But there probably won’t be a vacuum in the sheriff’s office. Now Brown said he would love to remain as sheriff for two more terms, if the public wants him and he remains healthy.

“I would like to help the department through this difficult time. I want to finish the job,” he said, referring to the budget cuts and the dismal outlook for the future.

Brinkman, a father of three, said his current plans are to run for county sheriff in eight years. He’s no stranger to the office. He worked as an Island County Sheriff’s deputy in the 1990s, and before that, he was an officer in Langley.

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