'Open season' comment just fine by some Mason County residents

'Open season' comment just fine by some Mason County residents »Play Video
MASON COUNTY, Wash -- "Open season on criminals," county commissioner? Well, sir, some of your constituents have no problem with that, but your deputies do.

Mason County Commissioner Tim Sheldon has been at the center of a divisive controversy after declaring "open season on criminals."

Mason County, like the majority of counties in the state of Washington, is facing budget cuts. County Commissioner Tim Sheldon says that could mean cutting at least one deputy sheriff.

And Sheldon told the Shelton-Mason County Journal newspaper he thinks armed residents in the county will help ease some of the risk involved in that decision.

"There is no bag limit. There's always an open season on criminals in Mason County," he told the paper.

And as far as Mike Mickelson is concerned, that's just fine.

Mickelson, 72, lives alone with his dog, Pepper. And with his .22 magnum on his side, he says he can do without a few deputies.

"I am armed. I don't how many other people are," he said.

Mickelson's used to taking matter into his own hands. As far as he's concerned, his safety is his own responsibility.

"We don't really need to depend too much on the response time of the sheriff's department," he said.

Sheldon shares Mickelson's watch-your-own-back sentiment.

"We feel comfortable with firearms. Defending a home is a natural instinct for a Mason County resident," he said.

The county has a $1.1 million deficit. In March, the county saw a 26-percent drop in sales tax avenue. Under the proposed cuts, the sheriff's office would lose $382,000 and up to five deputies who patrol the streets would be laid off.

Sheldon has made clear that he's not promoting vigilantism, but deputies are worried nevertheless about improperly-trained citizens taking matter into their own hands.

"If some vigilantism takes place, that's going to increase our work load, not decrease our work load," said Chief Deputy Dean Byrd. "What happens is not only do we investigate the original crime, but we also investigate the incident to interdict that crime."

"That's bogus," Sheldon said. "The sheriff's office is trying to protect themselves from some minor cuts that may happen."

As county leaders are working to get a tighter grip on the budget, Mickelson is keeping a tight hold of his gun and fire, if necessary.

"It's my right to own a gun," he said. "In the unlikely situation that I had to defend myself, I could."

The Mason County commissioners will hold at budget hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. They plan on making cuts in most departments, including the sheriff's office.