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Washington Co. Sheriff candidates tout management styles

September 25, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore
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WASHINGTON COUNTY -- In the race for Washington County Sheriff, incumbent Douglas W. Mullendore is stressing his managerial experience while his challenger, James M. "Jim" Woods, promises to lead with a more people-oriented philosophy.

Mullendore, 57, of Williamsport, is finishing his first term as sheriff and has been with the sheriff's department since he started as a deputy in January 1982. Before that, he worked at the Boonsboro Police Department for four years.

Woods, 58, of Hagerstown, has been a Hancock police officer since 2008. Before that, he was a sheriff's department deputy for six years. He said he was "very happy there," but left because he knew he wanted to run for sheriff and wanted to avoid an "unfriendly environment."

Woods' background also includes service in the U.S. Army and Air Force and work for the U.S. Secret Service, a fraud unit within the Maryland Department of Human Resources, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal in the Maryland State Police.

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Mullendore, a Democrat, and Woods, a Republican, were the only candidates to file to run for sheriff. Votes in the Nov. 2 general election will decide who holds the office for the next four years.

Management skills

Mullendore said his management experience and training, including graduation from the FBI National Academy for criminal justice executives, distinguish him from Woods. He said he proved his ability to lead others as he advanced through the ranks of corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and colonel within the sheriff's department.

"The sheriff's office has some 260-some employees, a $23 million budget, and if you've never been a supervisor, never been a manager, I don't know how you're going to have the skills to come in and do that," Mullendore said.

In a written response to a question from the Citizens for the Preservation of Pleasant Valley (CPPV), Mullendore noted that the potential for civil litigation from the operation of the Washington County Detention Center is high.

"The Sheriff must be knowledgeable and possess the skills to manage this facility appropriately so that civil litigation does not cost the taxpayers the usual high cost of litigation," he wrote.

Woods said he had a supervisory role as a noncommissioned officer in the military, overseeing anywhere from three or four people to as many as 40 or 50 at a time, and was a supervisor within the fire marshal's office.

He also stressed that the sheriff does not directly run the entire department.

"There are commanders, there are sergeants, there are lieutenants," Woods said. "Those are the people who manage everybody. You manage the managers."

In regards to the budget, Woods said he was confident he was up to the job.

"If you can balance your personal checkbook, it's the same skills that are required for that as for a multimillion dollar budget," Woods said. "You don't spend more than you make, and you make sure every dollar spent is well-spent."

Leadership philosophy

Woods said his people-oriented leadership philosophy, including a willingness to get out and meet with citizens, sets him apart from Mullendore.

"I want to get out and get into the communities," he said. "I'll attend their meetings, and I plan, just as part of my daily life as sheriff, to get out and be with the people."

In addition, he said he would be more visible as a public figure.

"I think there's tremendous opportunities for the sheriff to lend, if you will, the persona of his office to raise money for charity," Woods said. "We haven't had that, and I think it's time we put leadership and those human qualities back into the office."

Mullendore said he makes himself available to any citizen who wants to meet with him.

"I've been a member of various organizations around the community and have made myself available, even before I became sheriff, so I knew what was going on in the community," Mullendore said. "Quite honestly, I'm the only candidate that has done that."

Morale

Woods said he had witnessed firsthand a fall of morale within the sheriff's department.

"The thing is, the guys who are there are upset, and when people aren't happy with their work environment, they never work at their best potential," Woods said.

He said complaints of preferential treatment and unfair promotions are common, along with concerns about equipment purchases, training and a variety of other issues.

"All you have to do to correct that is become a good and true leader and provide equitable service to your people," he said.

Mullendore said Woods was generalizing from the views of a group of vocal employees who support him.

"He thinks that it's department-wide, and it's not," Mullendore said, pointing to the department's second-place ranking for "Best Place to Work" in The Herald-Mail's 2010 Readers' Choice awards.

"You always have a certain number of disgruntled employees because they either received some disciplinary action they didn't feel was appropriate, or something, so those are the ones that are always the most vocal," Mullendore said.

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