Yakima County Sheriff Brian Winter

Yakima County Sheriff Brian Winter talks about his recent diagnosis of ALS, family priorities and nearly 30 years in law enforcement while enjoying a coffee at Sundance Espresso in Selah, Wash., Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.

Many of you know we recently lost a great leader. What you may not know is the profound impact Brian Winter had on school safety.

Sheriff Winter was a founding member of the School Safety Operation and Coordination Center for Educational Service District 105. This service provides school districts in our region with leading practices in school and district-wide safety and security.

From its inception, Sheriff Winter served as an SSOCC adviser and helped bridge communication, training and preparedness between schools and the greater safety network of first responders. He regularly attended the biweekly SSOCC meetings and participated in countless tabletop safety scenarios to help schools prepare for incidents. Recently recognized by a state safety audit as “a model for school safety” and currently the only one of its kind in Washington (and perhaps the country), the SSOCC is a fitting tribute to one man’s life work.

Sheriff Winter was an expert in his field and had an amazing ability to connect with all individuals. His lack of ego and strong expertise made him a leader whom everyone respected, listened and responded to. His participation and common-sense wisdom not only shaped the course of school safety but has continued to inform our practices and raise our levels of readiness when a safety issue arises.

Sheriff Winter believed that tragedy could be prevented, that crisis didn’t have to happen. That every student and teacher could feel safer if everyone just took a step closer to each other and agreed that doing something was better than doing nothing. And he was right.

His favorite catchphrase, which he often repeated at tabletops, meetings and wherever safety-minded folks gathered, is unmistakable in its clarity and wisdom: “The best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do … is nothing.”

SSOCC training includes that exact quote (as well as the intent behind it) in every basic school safety course it teaches. With nearly 100 schools in five counties, that’s quite a reach for one man’s wisdom.

The best thing to do is the right thing. That’s Brian’s way. And if you don’t know what the right thing is, take a lesson from the sheriff.

Do something.

Rest in peace and God bless, friend. We’ve got it from here.

Brian Hart is superintendent of the Granger School District. Chris Weedin is school safety project manager with Educational Service District 105.