This article was updated to include additional information that appeared in the March 23 print issue of the newspaper.
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo announced he would not seek a sixth term in November and plans to retire after 20 years as sheriff.
Elfo said in a March 20 statement it has been an honor to serve Whatcom County but that he intends to retire after nearly 50 years in law enforcement. His term ends January 2024.
“The current environment presents many challenges moving forward that will require extraordinary leadership,” Elfo said. “My departure, however, will not result in any voids. Our highly developed and capable leadership team is fully prepared to meet all challenges and propel the sheriff’s office to new heights in excellence, integrity and teamwork.”
Elfo is the 37th sheriff to hold office since Whatcom County’s founding in 1854. He joined Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in 2003 from the Blaine Police Department when he was appointed interim sheriff. He was elected sheriff later that year and four consecutive four-year terms since.
“I have deep admiration and respect for Sheriff Elfo’s many years of service and dedication to our community,” county executive Satpal Sidhu told The Northern Light in an email. “I have seen firsthand his steadfast commitment to public safety and the well-being of his deputies. His retirement is well earned and he will be missed.”
Elfo told The Northern Light it was a difficult decision to make but he felt it was time to retire.
“I’ve been working since I was 12 years old with no breaks between jobs,” he said. “We have a great organization here at the sheriff’s office and I think it’s come time to pass the torch.”
Elfo, who will be 68 in April, started his career with the Pompano Beach Police Department in Florida where he rose to the rank of captain. He holds bachelor and master degrees in criminal justice as well as a law degree. He is a member of the Washington State Bar Association and federal bar of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. He served as a prosecutor and assistant city attorney.
As sheriff, Elfo oversees 212 department positions, including 95 law enforcement officers and 78 corrections officers, and a budget of $41.3 million.
One of the highlights of Elfo’s career was when WCSO established probable cause to arrest Mandy Stavik’s killer in 2019, he said. The case went unsolved for nearly 30 years, after the 18-year-old vanished November 24, 1989 and her body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River.
“It was a great feeling being able to tell her 80-year-old mother, on her birthday, that we got him,” Elfo said.
Having served as Blaine police chief from 1996 to 2003, Elfo thanked the residents of Blaine for their support.
Elfo has endorsed WCSO undersheriff Doug Chadwick to take over as Whatcom County sheriff.
“Doug has been a critical factor in our ability to provide exemplary law enforcement, search-and-rescue, corrections and emergency management services to Whatcom County residents,” Elfo said in the statement. “His knowledge and experience make him the most qualified person to take the sheriff’s office to the next level of excellence.”
Chadwick, who has served as undersheriff since 2019, announced his bid March 20.
Chadwick is a Whatcom County native who graduated from Mount Baker High School and Western Washington University. He joined WCSO in 1994 and has held every rank as well as numerous specialty positions, according to a March 20 announcement.
Blaine police chief Donnell Tanksley is also running for the position and announced his candidacy in December 2022.
Both Chadwick and Tanksley have registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission to raise campaign funds.
“As the day of retirement draws closer, it will be personally difficult,” Elfo said in his statement. “I plan on remaining active in the community through volunteer and charitable service. I will also continue to be an advocate for crime victims; the brave men and women of law enforcement; and all who support them. Thank you all and God bless.”
This article was updated April 5, 2023, to correct WCSO's budget amount. We regret the error.
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