Clark County Sheriff John Horch sworn in


Clark County has a new sheriff and he knows the territory.

On Dec. 22, Sheriff John Horch was sworn in during a ceremony at a packed hearing room at the county public service center. Horch, the chief criminal deputy for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, won the November election against Vancouver Police Corporal Rey Reynolds after he got about 54.5% of the vote.

Horch received support for his election from prior sheriff Chuck Atkins, who did not seek re-election. Atkins was not present at the event due to a family emergency, John Chapman, Atkins’ undersheriff said.

“He wanted you to know he’s not boycotting (the ceremony),” Chapman said. “He’s very excited about the next sheriff of our county.”

Horch was sworn in by Richard Melnick, a retired judge who served as both prosecutor and judge in Clark County. Melnick said he has known Horch for more than 30 years, which spans back to the time Horch began working for the sheriff’s office.

“I knew John both on the road and off the road,” Melnick said.

Melnick acknowledged Horch “did not have the smoothest path in his career.” Early on, Horch received a demotion from sergeant back to deputy for misconduct, according to internal affairs documents.

“But I think the reason he’s here is because of that,” Melnick said. 

He said Horch “gained a lot of strength by not avoiding things.”

Horch addressed the past issues, reflecting to The Columbian that “no, I’m not going to go this route” when it came to potential career destruction. He managed to rise back up through the ranks of the office, most recently serving in one of the office’s top positions as chief criminal deputy.

“He’s a success because he confronted issues,” Melnick said.

Melnick pointed to the hearing room filled with people who will help Horch in his new role.

The new sheriff’s wife, Michelle Horch, pinned the badge onto his uniform as he addressed the filled room.

Horch said he was overwhelmed as he came into the packed room, remarking on those who he knew professionally, through the campaign and otherwise.

He noted he started on the force as a “21-year-old brash deputy,” but was able to build out his career to focus on those he serves.

“My heart for service, for our community, has never changed from the time I was 21,” Horch said.

“I am nervous,” Horch admitted, noting the recitation by Melnick made him slightly emotional. 

He reiterated how he wants his tenure to be a reflection of those who elected him.

“I know I’m being sworn in today, but really it’s about our community. I really believe that,” Horch said. He added later, “I can’t leave our community the way it is. I want to give back and I love our sheriff’s department. That’s why I ran.”