In a rematch of the 2018 election, incumbent Columbia County Sheriff Joe Helm is again facing off against Deputy Jeff Jenkins.

In 2018, Helm defeated Jenkins with 64% of the vote to win his first term. Before the 2018 elections, Helm was the office’s chief deputy for 11 years.

Jenkins has been a deputy at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years.

Both candidates say a growing drug problem in the county is one of their top concerns.

Deputy Jeff Jenkins

Q. What is your top priority if elected, and how would you ensure you can accomplish it?

My top priority is to restore the community’s trust in the Sheriff’s Department. All members of Columbia County should feel safe. They should be able to trust that they will receive equal and just treatment in a timely manner if they call the Sheriff’s Department. I will hold myself and the deputies to the highest standards to ensure that trust. I will have a true open-door policy where the community can come and voice their concerns. These concerns will be taken seriously and addressed in a timely manner. I will hold town hall meetings to keep the community up to date with what is happening in the department and its plans.

Q. What is the biggest challenge to policing in Columbia County and how would you help fix it?

The biggest challenge in Columbia County is the escalating drug problem – primarily fentanyl and methamphetamine. Drug use leads to other problems, such as homelessness, mental health issues, as well as committing crimes in our community. A regional drug task force was re-established in October 2021. Columbia County was included in that funding but has yet to assign a drug officer to that task force. Committing a deputy to the task force is a high priority. Working with other agencies effectively reduces the flow of drugs to our community. Reducing the volume of drugs reduces the local crimes. I plan on partnering with regional mental health services as well as housing advocates to identify resources to assist people before they are in crisis. Taking a proactive approach from the beginning will reduce the manpower later, which is a saving for the taxpayers.

Q. Why are you a better fit for sheriff than your opponent?

I am committed to the Columbia County community, spending the past 23 of my 28-year law enforcement career with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve had to watch the divide in our community grow. By re-establishing the level of professionalism within the department, we can rebuild the citizens’ trust. I am a man of my word and follow through with my commitments. I am the better candidate for sheriff because I genuinely care about all aspects of our community. Without responsibility and accountability, there will never be reliability.

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at or 509-526-8321.


Jeremy covers courts, public safety and education for the Union-Bulletin. He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2019 with a degree in journalism. He pursued a career in journalism in his 30s because he feels real, dependable news is important now more than ever. He aims to shine a light on both the good and bad that happens in the Valley. He is a big fan of all the EWU sports teams. Jeremy grew up in California but has lived in eastern Washington since 2001. When he’s not working, Jeremy loves spending time with his wife, Hanna, and their Goldendoodle, Nala. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @ub_jeremy.  

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