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Drug war a priority in sheriff's race

October 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County's first new sheriff in 20 years will have to confront the challenges of a growing community, manpower needs and the rise of drugs and gangs, said the two men vying for the office.

While the department's second-in-command, Col. Douglas W. Mullendore, said he has the experience to get the job done, challenger Rich Poffenberger, a Maryland State Police corporal, said he is looking forward to taking to the streets as a hands-on Sheriff.

Voters will decide between the law enforcement veterans Nov. 7. Mullendore, of Williamsport, is a Democrat who ran unopposed in the September primary. Poffenberger, of Clear Spring, is a Republican.

"I think I bring the experience and the management skills to the position, and I'm a very aggressive person in working to solve problems," said Mullendore, 53, who has worked 25 years at the Sheriff's Department, where he helps oversee the department's patrol, detention and judicial services divisions.

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If he is elected Sheriff, Poffenberger, 46, said the first thing he would do is get a book of traffic tickets. He said he plans to retire as a trooper Nov. 1 after 28 years.

"I know the things I want to do (are) not an overnight thing; it's going to take time. The Sheriff's Department, they got a good department, they just need to be guided in that future direction," Poffenberger said.

Both Mullendore, a 29-year law enforcement veteran, and Poffenberger said they believe dealing with drugs must be a No. 1 priority.

Mullendore, the chairman of Washington County's gang task force, said the Sheriff's Department must make the community aware of the issues and provide youth with alternative ways to spend their time. In other areas, he said, gangs begin recruiting children as young as late-elementary-school age.

With the county growing and the Washington County Detention Center regularly near capacity, Mullendore said the Sheriff's Department eventually will need to expand the jail.

To provide better security at Washington County Circuit Court, the county should create an enclosed entrance and exit for inmates that is not accessible to the public, Mullendore said.

"More personnel is going to be something that is going to be needed regardless because our community has grown," Mullendore said.

Poffenberger said the department should develop a 10-year plan plotting its personnel needs.

"The thing of it is if you don't continue to grow with it and continue to add people, then what's going to happen is your county's going to overrun your police department," Poffenberger said.

The department also needs gear, such as TASERs and in-car computers, Poffenberger said.

"Why wait for an election year to do it?" Poffenberger asked.

Sheriff Charles F. Mades has held the position since he was elected in 1986.

According to Dee Hawbaker, the county's human resources administrator, the sheriff is elected to a four-year term. She told The Herald-Mail before the September primary that Mades earns an annual salary of $67,500. The salary will increase to $80,000 per year when the new sheriff begins his four-year term, she said.

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