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George should be next sheriff

It's a close call, but JACNET, collaboration tip the scales

By all appearances Mike Winters is a hard-working, honest, dedicated public servant. If he'd had a lesser opponent in his race to retain the county sheriff's job, we'd probably be using this space to sing his praises.

Instead, Winters' opponent is Tim George, a Medford police lieutenant who possesses the qualities Jackson County residents ought to appreciate in Winters and some others as well.

Key to the newspaper's decision to endorse George for sheriff was Winters' failure to hold together JACNET, Jackson County's now-defunct drug team.

The candidates tell wildly different versions of how the multi-agency team fell apart, but it is clear communication did become an issue and the team did disintegrate &

8212; and under Winters' chairmanship.

Winters says he's OK with that, and he says drug-enforcement coordination still exists, just in a different form. We don't doubt some communication exists, but we can't find the logic in letting the drug team go. Drugs are a factor in an overwhelming majority of crimes committed here, they take a lot of resources to fight and their prevalence affects all of us every day. On this as on other issues, Winters exudes a sort of lone-wolf approach. He's no-nonsense and he's focused, but he doesn't necessarily need anyone's help.

George, on the other hand, mentions the importance of relationship-building at every turn. Chatty and jocular by nature, he wants to work and play well with others &

8212; and experience shows he generally does.

How important is this to the job? It's clear a more collaborative approach on Winters' part would have salvaged at least some of JACNET.

But beyond that single issue, leading the 170-plus-employee sheriff's department is at its heart a managerial task, one that requires someone at the helm with finesse at communication and working with others.

Tim George's election would undoubtedly help heal the obvious rift between the sheriff's office and Medford police.

We believe it would lead the sheriff's office toward higher professionalism as well. George would approach the office as the manager of the large organization it is. He would focus on regular training and on increasing standards, applying his experience from the Medford department's recent accreditation process.

He would do it with a rock-solid background in law enforcement, including 30 years in a wide variety of positions with Medford.

Which is not to say Winters has failed to accomplish anything during his time in office.

He has brought in new equipment for the sheriff's department, including cars for every deputy. He has cut the number of criminals released early from jail, although it's unclear whether the approach of paying other counties to house inmates really saves money. He has presided over a falling number of traffic accidents on county roads.

They are important and necessary accomplishments, all. But they don't speak to the sheriff's role as the leader of a large organization with an important part to play as it works with other county agencies.

George shines there. And because of it, he ought to be the county's next sheriff.