SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — After almost 17 years serving as Spokane County Sheriff, Ozzie Knezovich will be moving on to Wyoming to pursue new opportunities.
Knezovich was appointed as Spokane County Sheriff in 2006. Prior to his time as sheriff, he also served as a patrol deputy, field training officer, property crimes detective, SWAT team operator, SWAT team supervisor, patrol supervisor and training supervisor with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
On top of this contributions to Spokane, Knezovich has also served as a patrol officer in Olympia and Rock Springs, Wyoming.
KREM 2's Kyle Simchuk sat down with Knezovich to discuss his time as Spokane County Sheriff and what lies ahead for him in the Equality state.
The following is an excerpt of that interview:
KS: Alright, so you've been sheriff for 16 years
OK: Almost 17.
KS: Almost 17. Since 2006. That won't be the case in the new year. How are you feeling?
OK: It's interesting. It's a new dynamic, kind of a little mixed emotions here and there.
KS: Is it going to be weird for you to kind of step out of this office and away from this building?
OK: It will be. 27 years is a long time. So, a new chapter.
KS: And what kind of led to this decision? I mean, you're not retiring necessarily. You're going to be working in Wyoming, right?
OK: I'm looking to teach at the college level. That's what I plan on doing. Maybe do some consulting, that kind of stuff, but not retiring or to retiring. I'm kind of shifting gears.
KS: You're not "stepping down" necessarily. You're just... it's a new opportunity. So, what kind of led to that decision? Was it a conversation with your wife or just...?
OK: Yeah, my wife was fairly adamant. It was time.
KS: This job takes a lot out of you
OK: It does. From normal years, minus the two COVID years, my wife and I maybe had two, maybe three weekend off during the summer because from May through September, we attended every community event that we could find every weekend. And it was a good time, but it does take a lot out of you.
KS: And what's in Wyoming for you?
OK: Family. That's where all the family is. That's where I'm from and my kids went back to Wyoming. All the grandkids are in Wyoming. So, that was a major drive.
KS: And teaching at a college level. Can you kind of talk about that, why you're interested in that and what sort of courses you imagine?
OK: I'd like to teach some leadership courses, maybe some criminal justice courses. Just give back, pass on the knowledge.
KS: A lot of knowledge. 27-32 years doing the job? Yeah? 32 years? Wow. What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment as sheriff?
OK: You know, recently, some people compiled a list of accomplishments. And I was like, 'Well, that's a little bit long.' But, I think that there's a lot of things that we've done to improve things. We formed a regional communication center, and that only took almost 12 years of start, stop, start, stop. But, we finally got that done. In 2008, we brought back Crime Check and we were able to pass a tax to improve and rebuild the infrastructure for all of the radio communication systems within the region. Next October, there will be a new state of the art training facility and small arms range that opens. The list is pretty extensive when you get into that.
KS: How would you describe your leadership style?
OK: My leadership style is really situational. I tend to let people do their jobs. If I have to come and start helping people do their jobs, I probably put the wrong person in the wrong place. So, I let people do their jobs. I give them division, I say 'here's where we want to go.' And I let them grow. You don't grow leaders by doing things for them. You grow leaders by letting them learn, and sometimes trial and error. People make mistakes, but that's life and that's what you learn from. Some of your greatest lessons come from some of the mistakes you make. So, my leadership style is I will give them an assignment. About every two weeks, I'll check on how things are going. My job is to remove roadblocks that they're finding, but I try to let people do their jobs.
KS: Any regrets? Any past mistakes that you look back at?
OK: There's always something you could have done better in life. The only regret I have right now right now is Camp Hope still stands. That shouldn't have happened. We were severely undermined by state leadership and by the city council of Spokane. That's no way for people to live and, quite frankly, it's no way for the neighborhoods to have to live either and those businesses. So, that would be one of the regrets that I have.
KS: Anything else you'd like to add or say to the people of Spokane County?
OK: It has been one of the greatest adventures of my life and ours to serve this community. And I will never forget this community. They have stood with me through four elections in numbers that I never dreamed and they've always had my back. And I hope I've always had their back. Everything I've done, I don't have anything left in the tank now. I gave it all and that's what i should have been. That was my goal. When my wife and I talked about 'should I do this job?' Well, if we do this, it's going to be all out. So, I gave it all and it was my greatest pleasure to do that. I just thank them for the support they gave me.
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