Getting to know the candidates: Tillamook County Board of Commissioners Q&A – part 1 of 6

The Tillamook County Pioneer sent a series of questions to the Tillamook County Board of Commissioner candidates. We compiled these questions based on input from various community leaders. The Tillamook County Pioneer will publish the answers in a series – below are all the questions, followed by the candidates brief bios and their answers to question #1. We feel it is very important to provide our citizens with as much information as possible about their options to fill this important position, and that citizens are often not able to attend the various candidate forums.
Here is an opportunity for the candidates to let our communities know why they are the best person to fill this position, and you can make a side-by-side comparison to their answers to these questions:

Please provide a 100-word biography/introduction.
1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?
2. What makes you the best-qualified candidate to address those issues?
3. What are the county commission’s current spending priorities? How, if at all, would you change them?
4. How do you assess the overall performance of county staff? How will you ensure they provide the best value for taxpayer money?
5. How will you approach economic development in the county?
6. Tillamook County is 77 miles long – how are you going to serve the entire county? How will you support/work with other municipalities/cities?

(presented in alphabetical order by last name)

Dear Neighbors,
My name is Mary Faith Bell and I’d like to be your next Tillamook County Commissioner. I love people and I have a huge heart for service. My character, experience, communication skills and leadership style make me uniquely suited for this office. I am the director of communications and marketing at Tillamook Regional Medical Center. Previously I was the editor at the Headlight Herald. I serve on the Tillamook Bay Community College Board of Education, the Tillamook Area Chamber board and the Tillamook County Tourism Advisory Committee. I am excited about getting to work solving problems.
(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
From Manzanita to Pacific City people have identified housing as their major issue. Lack of housing impacts our workforce and our ability to do business and to attract new business to Tillamook County. People with jobs can’t find housing for themselves and their families. Businesses can’t recruit people to work here because there is nowhere for them to live. This is true for dairy farmers, the tourism industry, forest products, food products, for big businesses and small. The number of working families living in RVs in Tillamook County is staggering, because they can’t find a place to live. The cost of housing has risen dramatically while the average wages are stagnant, which means that the houses that are available are often unaffordable for working families.

Kari Mattson Fleisher – Tillamook County grown and a resident for over 30 years. I attended Neah-Kah-Nie School District graduating as a Valedictorian. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southern Oregon University. I spent a few years away in Southern California and chose to return home. I have been a public servant working for Tillamook County for the last 14 years, served as AFSCME union president for several years, and volunteered on the Bay City Council and Port of Garibaldi Budget Committee. I am dedicated to my job and will do the same as commissioner.

(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
The top three issues facing the county are the lack of housing both low income, short-term, and long term housing. This is keeping our job growth flat and employers are having recruitment issues at all wage levels. The next priority is to stabilize the County’s general fund, expenses are outpacing revenue. The third priority is find a long term funding solution to our road department after the expiration the road bond. This was just a bandaid and doing a 2” overlay on our roads alone is a $24 million expense. We need to find a solution that visitors and non-residents share the financial burden.

I grew up in a small town similar to Tillamook, but went to Hungary with a Peace Corps-backed program following the Cold War. I wound up staying in Budapest, Hungary, for 22 years, where I married and raised a family. I worked in various countries in the region, and speak three languages fluently.
Following the nationalization of the waste management industry, I moved to Tillamook County, where I have served as the Solid Waste Program Manager since 2012.
I live in Bay City, and have a Masters of Science in Environmental Policy and Management.

(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
#1 is the lack of a strategic plan, which leads to other issues. The lack of a plan means that leadership is focused on putting out individual fires, rather than working towards overall solutions. We need to assess where we stand today, what our goals are for the future, and then map out a strategy to meet those goals, step by step. This needs to be done on the whole, not just addressing single departments.
#2 is the financial instability of the general fund budget. Those departments that have developed their own plans have been able to not only work within their limits, but provide quality services with limited funds. It is high time for the General Fund to take a hard look at the services provided, the manner in which those services are provided, where we need the county to be in one or two decades, and take steps now to turn them into reality.
#3 is preparedness, not just for The Big One, but for everyday natural and manmade disasters. We have made great strides thanks to the dedicated work of EVC and others, but we have much more to do. According to FEMA and SBA, at least 25% of small businesses never reopen following a disaster. We need to prepare our communities so that every business, organization, and resident is prepared – including the county government.

I’m a resident of Tillamook County. My wife and I have been married 23 years; and we have two grown children. I don’t see color or region. I’ll be a commissioner who provides nonpartisan representation, is dedicated to collaborative solutions, will listen to learn not just to respond, provides transparent governance, gives straight talk, advocates for fiscal responsibility and will be a champion for the interests of our county. My knowledge and experience gained through my governmental and community service is an investment I’ve made in this community; I’m asking you to continue that investment in me. Thank you for considering me.

(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
One is the NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion for FEMA’s NFIP Program in the State of Oregon. NFIP’s implementation of the BiOp will have a devastating impact on development in our county. Another is ODFW’s recent up-listing of the marbled murrelet from a threatened to endangered species, potential rulemaking out of that which could impact forest practices and, in turn, county’s timber receipts which account for 25% of county’s general fund, not to mention potential impacts to our local mills and jobs. Another is a forecasted budget deficit in the coming fiscal years (which doesn’t yet account for the first two I mention), its impact on how county provides services to its citizens and the need to explore how to balance expenditures against mandated services our county must continue to provide its citizens.

Walter Porter, Candidate for Tillamook County Commissioner, Position #3
As a life-long resident of Tillamook County, I lived and farmed in Nehalem where my wife and I raised our three children.
I attended school in the Nehalem area, graduating from Neah-Kah-Nie High school. I served on the Neah-Kah-Nie School Board for 9 years, as well as the budget committee for the school district.
For the past 18 years I have served on the Tillamook County Soil and Water Conservation Board. This position has provided an opportunity for me to help diverse groups to address complex problems.

(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
The three most pressing issues facing Tillamook County are: Housing, infrastructure, roads, drainage, and tide gates. Another pressing issue is bringing new industry to Tillamook County as well as a balanced budget.

I was born and raised in Tillamook and attended Tillamook public schools. I studied at Pacific University and taught music for 6 years before returning to Tillamook County with my wife, Rebecca to raise our family. We live in Tillamook with our son, Joey and soon with our daughter Lily, who is due to join us on July 31. I am principal broker and partner at Coast Real Estate Professionals, a business I co-founded in 2015. I’ve served as a Tillamook City Councilor, Tillamook Planning Commissioner, president of the Tillamook County Board of Realtors and on the Executive Board of the Oregon Association of Realtors.

(Question 1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?)
1. Housing
2, Infrastructure
3. Public Safety

Here are the upcoming candidate forums to be held throughout Tillamook County:
4/14 Oceanside Community Center 1 pm
4/15 Bay City Arts Center 12:30pm
4/17 AAUW Candidate Forum at Tillamook Bay Community College, Tillamook 5:30pm
4/18 South County Forum at Kiawanda Community Center, Pacific City 6 pm
4/25 North County Forum at Pine Grove Community House, Manzanita 5 pm