Snohomish County Sheriff candidate Adam Fortney speaks at the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum at the Snohomish County Campus on Oct. 7 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Snohomish County Sheriff candidate Adam Fortney speaks at the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum at the Snohomish County Campus on Oct. 7 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Sheriff concedes as a sergeant gets ready to assume top job

Ty Trenary wants to stay with the sheriff’s office. Sgt. Adam Fortney will take over Jan. 1.

EVERETT — Things may get awkward in the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, where an employee will become the boss, and the boss may become an employee.

Sheriff Ty Trenary dropped his bid for re-election almost as soon as the first results came in Tuesday night, showing he was 13 percentage points behind his opponent. That didn’t change with a second drop of votes on Wednesday.

He conceded the race to Sgt. Adam Fortney, who has worked patrol with the sheriff’s office for 23 years. Though there are still thousands of ballots to be counted, Trenary said the lead would be insurmountable.

“I believe the numbers speak for themselves,” he said Wednesday. “I think the right thing to do is acknowledge there’ll be a new sheriff in January.”

Both candidates said voters had a clear choice. Where Trenary touted a more compassionate form of law enforcement, Fortney promised a tough-on-crime approach.

Trenary said it became apparent which style of policing the majority of voters preferred.

“He ran a platform of crime and punishment, and it appears that’s what the voters wanted,” Trenary said.

Fortney faced an incumbent who raised nearly twice as much money and received support from a slew of elected officials, both Democrat and Republican.

The sergeant, meanwhile, gained the backing of police unions throughout the county.

“I think it was just cops enforcing the law again,” Fortney said. “I think the community was absolutely ready for this message.”

Now that Fortney’s won the vote, he said he has to live up to what he’s been saying on the campaign trail. He said he expects changes to happen, but acknowledged he would have to do some homework first.

Foremost, he said he wants to give deputies discretion to make their own decisions on the street.

“What that specifically looks like as far as policy, it’s just too early for me to say yet,” he said.

For now, Fortney will go back to working the graveyard shift on patrol. He said he wasn’t sure when he would have time to plan out the weightier decisions he’ll be making as sheriff, such as who will be part of his command staff.

Trenary said he will help however he can with the transition in leadership. After that, he said he wants to stay with the sheriff’s office, where he’s worked the majority of his three-decade career in law enforcement. He currently holds the rank of captain.

“I like being in law enforcement,” he said.

Fortney said he wouldn’t stand in the way of Trenary going back to work with the sheriff’s office.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Trenary and Fortney haven’t talked. But Fortney said people in the sheriff’s office and the county government have begun reaching out to him.

Fortney will assume his new role as sheriff on Jan. 1. He’ll go from being a night patrol sergeant supervising a handful of deputies at a time, to overseeing more than 800 employees who patrol the streets, run the county jail and carry out other law enforcement duties. He will earn an annual salary of nearly $166,000 next year in his new role.

Fortney asked Snohomish County citizens, including those who voted against him, to exercise patience.

“There’s going to be some uncertainty,” he said. “Just bear with me. If anything, I’ve proven how hard I can work the last eight or nine months. That’s going to continue in this office.”

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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