Sep. 23—Just more than a year after the North Bend Police Officers Association wrote a letter signifying no confidence in City Administrator David Milliron and disappointment in the city council, the union voted unanimously to endorse incumbent Mayor Jessica Engelke in the mayor's race for the city.
Patrick Kinney, the president of the association, said members met with Engelke last week and listened as Engelke gave her ideas for the future of the city.
"That coupled with our knowledge of what she's done over her tenure, we voted unanimously to support her," Kinney said.
Kinney said the letter signifying its lack of trust in Milliron was never meant to be public, and he acknowledged over the last year, a lot has changed in the city. That change is what led the police force to decide the city is on the right track.
"The other part of it is all the members of the police association are very committed, not just to the safety of our city but the future of our city," Kinney said. "We believe what she's accomplished over the last two years in indicative of what she will continue to accomplish."
Kinney said the controversy that erupted when the former police chief resigned has long been settled inside and outside the department.
"It's night and day," he said. "Obviously, you can't seek perfection out of any relationship. In North Bend, we obviously have a business relationship we maintain. At the same time, we're smaller and it's kind of like a big family. Yes, there was some turmoil. We've worked really closely with Chief (Gary) McCullough and Capt. (Cal) Mitts. The relationship we have with them is phenomenal."
Kinney said when McCullough and Mitts agreed to come out of retirement to help North Bend, it sent a strong message to the officers.
"Knowing there was turmoil, they looked at us, they looked at our department and our city and said we could do something," Kinney said. "Since they stepped in, the overall safety of our city has improved. I've seen more improvement. It's kind of like we're getting back to the North Bend we used to be."
And as a result, the relationship with the city administrator and the council has also healed.
"I've personally met with Mayor Engelke and City Administrator Milliron and addressed the things that were in that letter," Kinney said. "I've not seen the concerns we had continue. I've seen a complete and total turnaround. In some of the meeting I had with Mr. Milliron, he made some statements about what he wants in the city. So far, everything he said has happened."
Kinney said under the leadership of Engelke, the police force has been able to make changes that have not only improved the safety of the city, but the morale of the officers who work day to day to keep it safe. He said her biggest accomplishment was letting McCullough and Mitts make needed changes.
"I have the utmost faith in both Chief McCullough and Capt. Mitts," Kinney said. "I've been in North Bend 18 years, and the work environment we have right now is probably the very best I've seen in a long time. I see great things for North Bend. Obviously, there's a lot of different issues at play and a complicated job market. Right now, none of the senior officers are looking to leave and a year ago, we were all looking to leave."
Kinney said the police association has endorsed in the past, but it does not endorse every year or in every race. But, he said, with the strides North Bend has made, the association felt endorsing Engelke had to be done.
"Right now, we see things on such a forward-moving trend, that if we didn't say something, we would be failing our city," he said.