Tanksley wins Whatcom County Sheriff race


Blaine police chief Donnell Tanksley will be the next Whatcom County Sheriff after taking a significant lead following the Election Day tally.

The latest ballot count on November 9 showed Tanksley received 51.9 percent of the votes, while Whatcom County undersheriff Doug Chadwick trailed with 47.9 percent. The Whatcom County Auditor’s Office showed the two candidates were separated by 3,113 votes.

About 250 ballots were left to count, excluding absentee and out-of-state voters, after 80,834 ballots had been tabulated, according to the auditor’s office.

“This win is not just mine; it’s ours – a win for everyone who believes in a fresh start and a community-focused approach to public safety,” Tanksley wrote in a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page. “Your trust and shared vision mean the world to me.”

Tanksley added his top priority would be a smooth transition at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office as well as ensuring the jail operates to its fullest potential while the new jail is built.

With Tanksley’s departure from the Blaine Police Department all but ensured, city administrators are preparing to fill his vacancy. City manager Mike Harmon said during the November 13 council meeting that he was meeting with Tanksley and Blaine police lieutenant Michael Munden to discuss a transition plan.

“We have interest in the chief position, which is good,” Harmon said. “We wish Sheriff Tanksley well.”

In a statement to The Northern Light, Chadwick wrote that he was thankful for everyone who supported him through his campaign. Chadwick, who worked for the sheriff’s office for nearly 30 years and advocated strongly for a new county jail, said he wasn’t sure what the future held but his first priority was supporting his family.

“I will now turn my focus to assisting the new sheriff with the transition process. He is inheriting a well-run, well-trained and well-respected organization,” Chadwick wrote. “The dedicated men and women of the sheriff’s office will continue to serve the citizens of Whatcom County and uphold our values of excellence, integrity and teamwork.”

The next ballot count is 5 p.m. Friday, November 17, and results will be certified November 28.

Tanksley served in the U.S. military for 21 years and worked for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from 1993 to 2014. He then worked as assistant chief of police at Western Washington University for three years before becoming chief of police at Portland State University. He joined Blaine Police Department as police chief in 2019.

“Thank you to Blaine for four-and-a-half amazing years leading the police department,” Tanksley wrote. “The experience is irreplaceable, and I can’t wait to apply those lessons in my new role.”


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