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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Nowels, Nelson finish in top two to replace outgoing Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich

Aug. 2, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 2, 2022 at 11:07 p.m.

The two candidates for Spokane County sheriff in November will be Ozzie Knezovich’s right-hand man and a 21-year veteran of the department.

Undersheriff John Nowels, who Knezovich endorsed as sheriff to replace him, finished first in ballots counted Tuesday, garnering 54% of votes, while Wade Nelson finished second with 28%. Michael Zollars earned the remaining 15%. All three are Republicans.

Nowels, 49, has worked 24 years at the sheriff’s office in various roles, including as a patrolman, detective and – in the last three years – undersheriff.

He said he was pleased with Tuesday’s election results.

“I think the citizens of Spokane County are looking for a candidate who has prepared themselves to lead,” Nowels said Tuesday night. “I think they’re looking for a candidate with a proven track record of performance.”

Nowels said Knezovich’s endorsement helped him at the ballot box and that Knezovich’s endorsement, and endorsements from other elected officials, show he has put the time in and has the skills necessary to lead the county.

Nelson said the results were close to what he expected, and that voters are looking for change through him or Zollars, who did not receive enough votes to be on the November ballot. He agreed with Nowels that Knezovich’s endorsement helped Nowels Tuesday.

“I thought we did a lot of good work,” Nelson said of campaigning.

Nowels previously said cracking down on the spike in violent crimes will be one of his primary goals if elected.

Nelson spent 21 years at the sheriff’s office before taking a one-year leave of absence and departing in June.

He cited “frustration with the (office’s) administration” as the reason for leaving.

Nelson has said he wants to boost low morale in the sheriff’s office, hire more deputies and increase transparency to the public to earn its trust back.

Zollars worked 33 years at the agency before leaving in September and taking a job with the Kalispel Tribal Police Department.

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