To: An Open Letter to the Kittitas County Commissioners
From: The Sentinel Group from the Kittitas County Sentinel ~~~
Commissioners, we as a group have met with the Republican nominees for District 1 numerous times. Individually, we feel each of them has the make-up to become an effective County Commissioner. As the Sentinel Group, and in our interviews, we focused on the 3 elements that we deem important in our elected officials: Transparency, Accountability and Vision.
In our discussions, we used these topics to guide our dialogue. We would like to point out that most of our interaction was not question-and-answer, but rather an open discussion on the issues he or she will encounter.
Hopefully this will provide you input on our assessment of the nominees:
VISION- This topic seemed to be a theme in all of our discussions as it really is our primary focus for interviewing a potential commissioner. A commissioner’s vision of the future involves their views on growth and all of the facets involved with growth, managing the County’s ever-increasing budget, guiding County services and staff interactions with the public, budget management and many other issues. More importantly, a vision involves a consideration of existing issues and a desire to at least postulate clearly what the future might hold for the citizens of Kittitas County in both good and bad ways. It also proved to be the most difficult topic for the nominees to grasp, and on which to provide concrete opinions.
All three proved to be at least concerned about the subject and were familiar with what has transpired county-wide over the last few years. All offered rather generic opinions and ideas of the direction they might work toward as a sitting Commissioner. Each were strong in some areas but weak in others, but all had at least some knowledge of the issues. None really seemed willing to commit to articulating a specific vision they would be willing to adhere to.
ACCOUNTABILITY- We discussed at length our observations on how the County currently approaches governmental accountability. Our discussions centered on not only what is working but also areas with which we had question or concerns. Each nominee seemed to support a higher level of accountability on a generic level but offered little in concrete policy directives. Again, this is where “vision” dominated the discussions as we try to focus our attention not on the past but into the future.
TRANSPARENCY- All were hoping to bring added transparency to our County. The discussion centered on methods or means to achieve this but all agreed it was a moving target.
Our individual assessments of the candidates for appointment:
Anne Anderson brings professional and personal experience in government and state legislative experience as a nominee. She possesses the knowledge and demeaner of a “politician” that will most likely allow her to easily transition into the position. We viewed this both positively and with an element of suspicion. She stated she only wished to serve until the next elections and to continue with Commissioner Jewell’s direction for the county. Her background as a state-level elected official is quite different than the immediacy of dealing with citizen interactions directly and locally. She was very specific in her wish to continue with Commissioner Jewell’s agenda and his vision for the county. Ms. Anderson emphasized her ability to represent the county well in state issues, and said her knowledge of state processes, higher education, and existing relationships with statewide leadership would be a benefit to Kittitas County.
Cory Wright was viewed as the most articulate of the nominees.He has extensive private business background, has project management-specific experience and has been heavily involved with personnel issues in his negotiations with powerful unions. We viewed his responses positively and we think he could become an effective County administrator. Cory admitted his lack of knowledge in Growth Management related issues, water, transportation and other areas but made it clear he would be seeking out opinion and assistance in areas he felt he was weak in. He seemed to be genuinely excited about economic development in Kittitas County, the only one of the three who articulated the methods by which he might approach the subject.
Mike Lowe was the quietest of the nominees but also came forward with a level of answers to the questions which indicated he would be a quick learner. He has a strong agricultural background, an important qualification for both District 1 and 2 positions, and had a grasp of, and working knowledge of, water both from an ag position but also the impacts for potable water issues relating to the Kittitas County and its citizens. As a Kittitas school board member and as a person who is involved in his community he had the most “local” or accessible nature of any of the potential appointees. He has business experience and has managed budgets and his qualifications as a holder of elected community positions will shorten his learning curve for the position. He also was clear that he would be reaching out to citizens for assistance in areas he felt weak in.
Again, we viewed all three nominees’ worthy of the position and believe any one of them would be suitable and effective Commissioners. Each will bring both strong points and areas which will need to be developed but all have the capacity to grow into the position.
Our interest here is not to support any one nominee rather to provide our input to assist you in your decision.
The Sentinel Group