Sheriffs 1991 - Present

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Tim Helder: 2005 - Present
Sheriff Helder 
  • Began Law Enforcement career in 1979 as a dispatcher at the Washington County Sheriff's Office and later worked as a field deputy.
  • In 1982 was hired by the Fayetteville Police Department and rose to the rank of Deputy Chief before retiring in 2003.
  • In 2003 returned the the Sheriff's Office as Chief Deputy.
  • January 2005 - Elected Sheriff of Washington County
  • February of 2005 - Dispatch was moved to the new jail.
  • On March 10, 2005 - Detainees were transferred to the new detention center.
  • During his first year in office, the Sheriff's Office increased the number of employees by 50% to accommodate the new facility.
  • In 2006 renovated new facility, increasing the capacity by approximately 100 beds.
  • During his tenure, the Sheriff's Office has joined area Law Enforcement Agencies in creating several task forces including: Immigration, Drug Interdiction, Internet Crimes against Children, Sex Offender Task Forces.
Lee Owen: 2004 - 2004
Lee Owen
  • Began his Law Enforcement Career in Upland California on October 15, 1956.
  • In 1958 he joined the Siloam Springs Police Department where he attained the rank of Assistant Police Chief.
  • Elected Sheriff of Benton County in 1966, Re-Elected in 1968.
  • Appointed by President Nixon as U.S. Marshall for the Western District of Arkansas May 1, 1970.
  • In 1978 transferred to US Probation and Parole Division.
  • After retiring as Chief U.S. Probation/Parole Officer on January 1, 1995 he took employment that same day as Captain over the daytime operations with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
  • On May 1, 2004, was appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee to replace Sheriff Whitmill who had resigned.
    On November 30, 2004, the new jail was completed and turned over to the County.
  • On December 1, 2004,the new jail was opened for training of officers and maintenance crew.
Steve Whitmill: 2001 - 2004
Steve Whitmill
  • In 1988 started as a part time deputy at the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
  • In 1992 began working full time and rose the the rank of Sergeant before being elected Sheriff.
  • On November 21, 2000, discussions of new jail project began with Judge Hunton, Sheriff elect Whitmill, County Administrator John Gibson along with Jim Langford and Wayne Smith with Southbuild.
  • Established the first Official Sheriff's Office web site containing online information for public access.
  • On January 10, 2002, the Quorum Court passed Ordinance #2002-1 authorizing an election to pass a half percent sales tax for construction, maintenance and operation of an approximately 700 bed County Jail.
  • On March 5, 2002, Voters approved sales tax and bond issue to build a jail.
  • On October 8, 2002, Construction of the new jail began. The design and construction cost would total $22,741,960.
  • Implemented in car video system for patrol cars.
  • During his tenure the Magistrate Judge System was implemented allowing an onsite courtroom to reduce prisoner transport and increase officer safety.
Kenneth McKee: 1991 - 2000
Kenneth McKee
  • McKee changed the "posse" name, and classified them as auxiliary officers, since they were a private organization using our title.
  • McKee required every employee to take the 40-hour jail standards class to become certified.
  • Roland "Pete" Williamson was shot and killed at the NWA Urology Clinic on Zion Road while transporting a detainee. The detainee was able to get Deputy Williamson's service weapon and fatally shot him. The detainee also shot and killed a citizen while attempting to leave the clinic. The detainee fatally shot himself a few minutes later when area law enforcement were closing in.
  • On June 26, 1999, the existing County Jail was renovated and expanded to house 240 detainees.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, Washington County's population grew from 113,409 to 157,715, a 38% increase. During the same time, the number of criminals booked into county jail mushroomed from 3,734 to 7,420, a 99% increase. This is what prompted the next Sheriff to start discussions about a new jail.
  • On October 3, 1999, the Washington County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant Sunday at the Jerry and Martha Stacy residence on Brush Creek west of Elm Springs. This concluded an investigation lasting more than a year that was conducted by the sheriff's office, the Springdale Police Department, the Elm Springs Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The couple was arrested on the same day in southern Texas. The Stacys were driving a motor home allegedly loaded with 570 pounds of marijuana.


The Washington County Sheriff's Office would like to keep an accurate and comprehensive history of the prior Sheriffs and relevant information. If anyone has information to share or corrections that need to be made please contact Kelly Cantrell.