An Oregon newspaper woman featured on 60 Minutes for bringing down a corrupt sheriff is our woman of the month. Samantha Swindler is currently the publisher and editor of the Headlight Herald in Tillamook and the publisher of the Lincoln City News Guard, but her remarkable story began in Whitley County, Kentucky, where she was the editor of the Corbin Times-Tribune. She and a young reporter, Adam Sulfridge, gathered the evidence needed to convict a corrupt sheriff, Lawrence Hodge, and fifteen of his associates. The story was related by 60 Minutes on Sunday, May 6, 2012.
Samantha is the kind of woman I admire for several reasons. First, she is courageous. “I didn’t think of myself as brave at the time,” Swindler said. “I was mad. He [the sheriff] pissed me off. He was a bully and I was going to stand up to him.” She had to carry a gun because of threats against her life, but she didn’t back down from her investigation. “I wasn’t overwhelmed by fear,” Swindler said. “Somebody wants to play chicken, I’ll play chicken.” I respect that kind of courage. Second, Samantha cared about her community. “He [the sheriff] was hurting our community and I wanted to get him,” Swindler said. She was dedicated to making Whitley County a better place and was willing to do the hard work needed to get the job done.
I asked her how her new fame was affecting her life, and she laughed and said, “Since last Sunday I’ve gotten a lot of emails and followers on Twitter.” She has also been talking to Senator Betsy Johnson about sponsoring a bill to provide better access to Oregon open records. “I couldn’t have done in Oregon what I did in Kentucky,” she told me. She related how Oregon’s current laws make it too difficult and expensive to gain access to open records on the county and state levels. She is currently trying to get those laws changed. That’s another thing I admire about Samantha: she is proactive.
We in Oregon are fortunate to have Samantha Swindler on the job for us.