MACLEOD PAPPIDAS | THE DAILY WORLD
Grays Harbor County Commissioner candidate Allan Shores waves to passing motorists driving into Aberdeen Friday. Shores is running against Frank Gordon for the position.
Earlier this year, Allan Shores started leading Bible studies at Stafford Creek Prison, hoping he might convince a few convicts to accept Jesus into their hearts.
As a former parole officer, he says he used to work with offenders, trying to get them to change their ways and find new lives. He says he had quite a few success stories, particularly with troubled teens, both from his time working on the Harbor and as a counselor at the state’s detention facility for youths in Naselle.
“I’m a big believer that Christian-based Bible studies give prisoners the opportunity to come out of their cells and talk about the values of Christianity to help them change their lives,” Shores said.
Shores, who is running for county commissioner, credits his own religion as a big influence in his decision-making abilities. Whenever he’s had personal troubles, it’s something he leans on.
Compassion and balance are two of his strongest attributes and would make him a strong commissioner, he says.
Shores, a Republican from Aberdeen, is running for Commission District 2. In a four-way primary, he received 28.8 percent of the vote and will face Aberdeen City Councilman Frank Gordon, a Democrat, who took first with 29.2 percent.
Incumbent Commissioner Mike Wilson and Westport Mayor Michael Bruce, both Democrats, were eliminated in the primary.
One of Shores’ biggest challenges will be to convince Aberdeen-area voters to support him. In the primary, 71.12 percent of the voters chose one of the three Democrats. Shores said he hopes to draw on support from elsewhere in the county as the election turns countywide. Election Day is Nov. 6.
“I’m door belling, I’m flag waving, I’m doing whatever it takes to get my message out there,” Shores said.
In his advertisements, Shores is taking a direct aim at Gordon. In one ad, he calls into question Gordon’s ability to be a commissioner, lambastes Gordon for saying he has the experience to be commission chairman on day one and talks about Gordon’s support for a countywide sales tax to benefit roads. Those issues surfaced in a Daily World interview with both candidates and in subsequent articles.
“People need to know there’s a difference between us,” Shores said.
Shores’ latest ad says the county is wasting money at the juvenile detention center, calling for an audit at the facility and using facts he says he received from a confidential source. He says he didn’t vet the ad through the county’s budget office.
“The problem at Juvenile Detention is symptomatic to the rest of the county,” Shores said. “The county commissioners are not meeting with their employees, are not seeing what is really happening on the ground. I’m going to do that. You’ve first got to go down there and talk to people. Are people pulling their weight? Are they not pulling their weight?”
One reason the commissioners have been hands-off with the detention center is that it’s under the purview of the Superior Court judges, who are suing the commissioners for budget cuts at the facility. Shores said this is just another reason to get all the parties together to settle the lawsuit.
Shores has 5 1/2 years experience with Juvenile Corrections, working at Naselle and on the Harbor as a parole officer. He moved to Aberdeen in 1978 and is still living in the same home today.
He says he gave the career up after he became frustrated with the way Juvenile Corrections was working.
“They were taking away all the hammers you had as a parole officer when kids were paroled,” Shores said.
He sought another career at the Grays Harbor PUD. He says it was a natural fit for him because he had worked for Seattle City Light for more than three years while going to school.
At the PUD, he started in the warehouse and worked his way up to chief store keeper, in charge of training new employees at the warehouse and maintaining inventory.
“At that point, we didn’t have computers so we had to do everything by hand,” Shores said.
He says he became good at numbers and predicting emergency needs. He was good at statistics, looking back at previous years and trying to figure out how many poles might be needed or tools.
“In an emergency, I needed to make sure we had everything we needed not just for our crews, but for the contracts, as well; I was responsible for $2.5 million in inventory,” Shores said. “We’re talking 1,500 items and we had to monitor everything really close. When I first started, it took four of us two and a half weeks to do inventory and, before I left we could do it in a day.”
He worked in the store room for six years and was the chief for 10 years before taking a head groundman position on a service truck in Ocean Shores. At that job, he drove the bucket truck and assisted the journeyman with underground and overhead repairs.
Shores said what he took from his experience with the PUD is that his bosses would listen to suggestions and sometimes make changes.
“I’m not so sure that’s happening at the county,” Shores said. “I think you need to sit down and listen to them.”
Shores said that as a member of his union at the PUD, he voted and had input on several contracts.
“There were times we rolled over several contracts with no increases and left everything the same because we had that communication,” Shores said.
He admits there wasn’t ever a time when the PUD came back and asked for pay cuts, though, which has been the trend the past few years at the county.
Shores, in fact, says he would ask the deputies and corrections personnel to give back their raises. The Corrections Division of the Teamsters Union received a 3.4 percent raise this year, and the deputies received a 5 percent bump last year, a 2 percent increase this year and have a contract in place that will give them a 2 percent increase in 2013.
Shores said he also would ask elected officials to give back 7 percent of their wages and impose a 6 percent wage cut on exempt staff.
Shores said the county ought to do away with its participation in an Employment Security program that has the state reimburse county employees for half of their wage losses. He contends it’s costing the county too much on increased Labor & Industries rates in the end.
Shores acknowledged the county faces a deficit in the millions. His ideas include attracting new businesses to the area, although those kinds of solutions don’t have an immediate impact on increasing revenue.
He doesn’t have any specific priorities on where the county ought to cut its budget, although he says he wouldn’t be afraid to do layoffs.
He says he’s not in favor of any kind of tax increase and would vote against a road levy shift that increases property taxes on residents within city limits. He says he’s also not a fan of any kind of sales tax increase. If one of his fellow commissioners asked him to send a sales tax issue to the voters to decide, he says he wouldn’t even vote in favor of that option.
And he says the county needs to increase its reserves to at least $4.4 million. Without relying on a tax increase of any kind, that means even more cuts.
“It’s going to be hard, but we need to do it,” he said.
Although he’s in favor of wage cuts, in some instances, he favors increases.
He says the county should allow more cross-training of positions. Some employees perform duties of other employees, but they get “out of class” pay. Shores says he sees no problem with that.
“At the PUD, when I would work in my boss’ position as a material supervisor, I got an 8.5 percent bump per hour,” he said.
He says the county also should implement an incentive policy allowing employees to suggest improvements and, if there are savings, share some of those savings as a reward with the employee.
Shores does not favor closing the county offices during the lunch hour as a cost saving measure, saying that affects the public too much.
Shores said the budget problems come about because of a lack of planning from the incumbent commissioners. Shores said he favors working out a budget two years in advance, similar to the way the city of Hoquiam and the state Legislature does it. If possible, he says forecasts should be done three years out.
“You do the budgets early in the year in order to spend the budgets more wisely,” Shores said.
Shores, who is now retired, has not attended very many county commission meetings since he announced his candidacy earlier this year. He says he felt his time talking with voters has been more important. He’s endorsed by the state Farm Bureau and the Master Builders.
Shores, 69, has been married to wife Barbara for 36 years. Together, they have two sons — Brandon, 36, and Cameron, 27.
He says he’s volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together and often works as a volunteer budget and debt counselor. He says his time with Leadership Grays Harbor 12 years ago showed him how businesses on the Harbor have developed and can grow.