It has been a tumultuous few years in Grays Harbor County government. That’s what happens when the bottom falls out of the economy and the people we elect are left to make the most with what they have.
Frankly, things might be even tougher for the next board of commissioners. Grays Harbor voters will elect two county commissioners next month and The Daily World believes those two should be Democrats Frank Gordon and Terry Willis.
The Willis endorsement comes with strong reservations. She has been chairwoman of the commission the past two years and its primary budget writer. She has kept cities in the dark about taxing decisions that affected them and other county elected officials in the dark about budget decisions that affected them.
And the backdoor manner she employed to submarine the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority, which she was chairwoman of at the time, is still mystifying.
But she has managed to pull together a balanced budget and even add to reserves by deft cuts that minimized the impacts of a reduction in the services the county provides its citizens.
While we have reservations about her as a politician, we still prefer her over her opponent, Wes Cormier, a Republican.
In interviews with The Daily World, Cormier, a senior appraiser in the Assessor’s Office, was vague about why he was running and what his priorities are. To address budget issues, he drew on the old chestnut of streamlining the permit process so that businesses will be encouraged to locate here. It’s going to take a lot more than that, possibly more mandatory employee furloughs and maybe raising taxes. Willis is realistic about having to take those steps if it comes to that.
Cormier deflected requests for specifics on how he would address the budget by saying he would have to wait until he was elected to see what the detailed picture is and how he would deal with it. It doesn’t seem realistic that someone working in the Courthouse wouldn’t already have a pretty good idea of who the budget winners and losers will be.
While Cormier played things too close to the vest during his campaign, Willis did the same as she governed. If she doesn’t make the Courthouse tent bigger this term, we’re not likely to give her the benefit of the doubt next time.
The other race — between Gordon and Republican Allan Shores — is an easier call. Frank Gordon is, and has always has been, refreshingly Frank. He’s a straight shooter, and though he’s had a tendency to shoot from the hip a little too much in the past, this time around he displayed the composure and thoughtfulness to take aim first.
But, he still isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.
The plain-spoken electrician and Aberdeen councilman may seem rough around the edges, but he understands the issues, and we believe he might just have the savvy to get some things accomplished. Shores, on the other hand, seemed simply overmatched.
Shores, like Cormier, stressed the importance of bringing in businesses to grow the tax base for the future, speaking vaguely about convincing businesses from the I-5 corridor to move here, but didn’t say what would prompt them to do that. He talked of “keeping the county solvent” with few details on how he might go about tackling the county’s budget in the present.
From the budget to the lawsuit brought by the Superior Court judges against the county, Gordon came well prepared and armed with good ideas about how to get things done. He’s realistic about the county’s finances, and, like Willis, won’t rule out anything to balance the books just yet. As for the potentially precedent-setting squabble between the judges and the commissioners, Gordon offers a fresh personality across the bargaining table, and a strong desire to settle the matter and get back to business.
While Shores, too, thinks the suit must be resolved, he lacks the knowledge of the players and wide-angle view of the issues that Gordon has.
Though both candidates stressed that the county must be more open, Gordon has been on the receiving end of the commissioners’ communication issues as a member of the Aberdeen City Council. He will no doubt draw from that experience. Coupled with the fact that we don’t think Frank Gordon is capable of not speaking his mind, it gives us hope that a more open dialogue with the cities, and the public, would be a foregone conclusion with his influence on the board.
The Daily World’s Editorial Board includes Publisher Bill Crawford, Editor Doug Barker, Sports Editor Rick Anderson and City Editor Dan Jackson.