Longtime deputy challenges John Urquhart for King County sheriff

Maj. Mitzi Johanknecht, a 32-year department veteran, says she wants to be “a progressive leader who can restore honor and integrity to the Sheriff’s Office.”

A 32-year veteran of the King County Sheriff’s Office, who has served in various leadership roles and broken down barriers for female deputies, will challenge Sheriff John Urquhart in his re-election bid to lead the agency of 1,100 employees.

Mitzi Johanknecht, who holds a major’s rank and commands the department’s Southwest Precinct covering unincorporated areas in Southwest King County, announced Thursday she’s running “because the people of King County and within the Sheriff’s Office deserve a progressive law-enforcement leader.”

“My platform is focusing on public safety, building community trust and support, and being a progressive leader who can restore honor and integrity to the Sheriff’s Office,” she said in an interview.

Johanknecht, 58, a King County native, said she believes both morale within the department and the services it provides to the public have suffered under Urquhart.

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“We need to listen, engage and collaborate with our community,” she said. “We need to effectively remember that … public safety is a team sport. That’s not happening.”

Johanknecht joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1985. She became a captainin 1998 and has spent time in supervisory roles in field operations, patrol operations, technical services and special-operations divisions.

Johanknecht cited the 2 ½ years she spent early in her career as a deputy assigned to a public-housing community near Kent under a federal drug-elimination grant as some of the most valuable experience in her career.

“I learned the importance of connecting with the community,” she said.

With her assignment to command the Criminal Investigations Division in 2013, Johanknecht became the first full-time female deputy to lead TAC-30, the Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team. She also has led two precincts.

Urquhart — the blunt-talking former media-relations officer who parlayed his name recognition into a successful bid for sheriff in 2012 — retired with a sergeant’s rank before running for office.

“When you look at the two of them, Mitzi far outshines John in terms of breadth and depth of experience, the multitude of different assignments and in managerial experience,” said Brad Thompson, who retired with a major’s rank in 2015 after 37 years in the Sheriff’s Office, and knows both candidates.

Jason Bennett, political consultant for Urquhart, said they “welcome Mitzi to the race.”

“Sheriff Urquhart is the most progressive sheriff in the country — from his work on LGBT rights, to drug reform, to holding deputies accountable,” Bennett added. “No one is better suited than Sheriff Urquhart to continue standing up to the Trump administration while protecting all King…

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