John McCroskey Commentary: Thoughts on the Lewis County Sheriff Race From a Former Sheriff


Several weeks ago, my curiosity got the better of me and I met with candidate for sheriff Tracy Murphy to ask him “why?” 

Why was he running and did he know what a campaign would involve and how hard it is historically to unseat an incumbent sheriff? After we met, I concluded he may not know what kind of effort is required in countywide campaigns, but then again neither did I when I ran.

I also met with Sheriff Rob Snaza to discuss why he thought he picked up a pretty capable opponent in his race. After all, historically, it’s rare. 

When I met with these men, I had planned on writing about it and perhaps shining some light on the campaign. However, afterwards, I changed my mind and concluded there just wasn’t enough there. But in the past few weeks, mostly since the primary, I’ve been asked many times my opinion on who to vote for.

So I changed my mind — sort of.

I’ll save you all the time reading further if that’s what you’re looking for by saying both men are fine and I like them both. I have known them both for a long time. Either of them would be fine.

I’ve read very glowing letters to the editor supporting mostly Tracy Murphy and his character as a person. 

That is an important characteristic of elected officials and one sadly missing at the state and national level these days.

Snaza obviously has an advantage as an incumbent, but he also has to answer for the decisions he made as sheriff, which is what accountability is really all about.

Last Saturday’s edition of The Chronicle covered the forum in Packwood, and if anything, highlighted the difficulties faced by counties — especially rural counties — in this and other states.

As the saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees, and much of — if not most — of the problems we face cost lots of money.  Lots of challenges were identified, but not many real solutions were presented by either candidate.

To be fair, money is a large part of the issue and money always will be a part of the obstacles counties face. 

The sheriff said the East End Substation was closed, but not really why. Just that the department had to. I didn’t know it had closed but I would like to know more about why, though I surmise there is a good reason.

Murphy wants not only a presence, but a holding cell in the substation too. He’s a youngster, so I can forgive his youth, but lots of cities — including Morton and Centralia — had their own jails back in the day, until laws and costs prevented it. If anything I’m sure it’s worse now.

Two letters to the editor caught my attention though, and I thought I’d clear up a common misunderstanding. The first is that the sheriff works for the county commissioners. He (in this case) and all the elected county officials don’t work for the commissioners. They work for the people of the county and answer to the same voters. 

But the commissioners have the responsibility to manage the budget until it’s passed. Then each of those elected are responsible for what they have been given.

The second had to do with the treatment of the reserves (or volunteers), which bothered me.  They are essential, especially as money gets tight, and they need to feel like they are.

The presence of the sheriff at a meeting on occasion is very important and indicates that they are too.

These are very trying times and it doesn’t look like they’ll get better anytime soon.

Whoever is elected sheriff has their work cut out trying to manage services in a large county like ours with the revenues we have.

I don’t envy either of them.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis and can be contacted at