By Danny Oliveaux
OROVILLE – Okanogan County commissioner District 2 candidates and county’s district court judgeship presented reasons why they believe they should be elected during a forum Oct. 11.
Altogether, six candidates attended the Oroville Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Forum at The Plaza Restaurant.
Incumbent District 2 Commissioner Don “Bud” Hover and challenger Ray Campbell, both Republicans, addressed the group.
Hover, who has been commissioner since 2004, said it is a “multi-facet” job.
“You have to deal with finances, budgets, risk management, land use and other things,” Hover said.
He said government does not create jobs.
“The government’s job is to help facilitate and provide the infrastructure so that private industry can strive,” Hover said.
Hover said since being commissioner, he and Ferry County Commissioner Brad Miller helped acquire funds to rebuild Hall Road from the Buckhorn mines to the processing mill in Republic.
He said he wants to help bring some jobs back into the wood industry.
Hover said the county helped with the Eastlake Sewer Project in Oroville and aided in getting North Valley Hospital as a certified Veterans Hospital.
Campbell, who served on the Board of Adjustments and Watershed Planning Board, said when the Methow Valley was “attacked by the federal government concerning irrigation facilities.”
He criticized the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Plan and said there are few endangered species as before the plan was established in 2002.
“About 30 cents on the dollar of our electrical rates goes to the recovery plan,” Campbell said. “It’s a very feel-good thing and there’s pressure from the state and federal government to keep this going.”
He said the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Plan is a bureaucracy that is there for the future with a lot of planned projects that “sound good.”
Campbell said there were two reasons he decided to run for commissioner – the county Comprehensive Plan and state Growth Management Act.
Campbell said he helped form the Coalition For Property Rights instrumental in redrafting the Comphensive Plan.
“We became proactive, working with commissioners and citizen, and other groups,” Campbell said. “And through the process I was helped redraft the current Comphensive Plan.”
Campbell said he would like to see citizens’ input on county ordinances such as the Critical Area and Shoreline Management Plan.
“We need everybody’s involvement,” he added.
He also said too much of the county’s land is being sold to the state’s wildlife department.
“Our tax base is going away,” Campbell noted. “We just can’t take money away from here. When you take away the tax base, the burden falls on the taxpayers.”
Campbell said the job of commissioner is to “serve the people, people don’t serve us.”
Incumbent District Court Judge Heidi Smith and challenger Scot Stuart heard each other explain why they’re the best choice in the Nov. 6 general election.
Smith, who is the first woman is serve as judge in the county, was appointed district court judge in December 2011, succeeding Chris Culp.
She said before being appointed district court judge, she was in private practice – mostly dealing with property and title issues. She also worked in providing pro bono services with non-profit groups.
Smith said as judge she may sentence up to 25 people during a morning court session, but tries to consider creative sentencing options.
“We do have such a small amount of time with people,” Smith said. “But we can’t do all the thing we want to do to encourage people to do better.”
Smith said she tries to encourage youth and speak to students when given the opportunity.
“That is where it begins – in the family,” she said. “By the time is see some people in district court, they have been down such a rough path, it’s going to take a lot to get them on a better path. Prevention is the key.”
Stuart, who has more than 30 years as an attorney, said he wants to take all his trial and courtroom experience to the district judge seat.
He said he’s appeared before dozens of judges.
“Some have been great judges, some were not so great,” Stuart said. “But I had the opportunity to learn something from all those judges.”
Stuart said his courtroom experience provides him with a “very unique perspective” on the criminal justice system.
“There’s not many attorneys that have had the opportunity to be involved on the levels I have been involved in both as a prosecutor and defense attorney,” Stuart said.
Stuart, who has been involved in coaching and youth athletes, said he wants to take his experience and compassion for people for better use as district court judge.
Steve Houston, who is running against incumbent Okanogan County Public Utilities District District 1 Commissioner Patricia “Trish” Butler, also addressed the chamber.
A lifelong county resident, he said he’s worked of large energy intensive projects in the U.S. and in foreign counties and familiar with electrical grids.
“Million-dollar projects don’t scare me,” Houston said.
He currently works in the oil and gas business on enhanced oil recovery.
Houston said family and friends asked him to run for commissioner, because they’re not happy with the ways the district is operating.”
“My platform is quite simple with fiscal responsibility. I’d like to see our PUD reflect more of the community,” Houston said. “It has in the past, it’s been very frugal. It operated very fiscally conservative and we’ve loss track of that.”
Houston said he’s talked the PUD customers and employees, who voiced dissatisfaction with the company.
“A former commissioner told me if we were a private company, you’d say we lost our brand,” Houston said. “We’ve destroyed our brand. When employees go out in the fields, they duct-tape over emblem when they go in somewhere to have lunch.”
As for Enloe Dam, Houston said he look at the study and project and the dam’s cost production is $66 per mega-watt hour.
“We currently get power off Wells Dam at about $18 per mega-watt,” Houston said. “We’re having trouble selling that $18 power at a profit to help our rates. We’re a far cry from being economical on Enlow.”
Houston said the district has spent a lot of money and time of Enloe, but he would propose cutback the spending on the dam and retain the rights on the dam.
Butler did not attend the meeting.
Democrat Albert Roberts, who is running against Republican Sheilah Kennedy for the District 1 county commissioner seat, said elected officials are responsible for what happens.
“As commission, my approach is to listen,” Roberts said. “I believe I have the ability to listen and transfer that to make it work.”
Roberts said citizens need to have a “good value” on taxes they pay.
“It has to be efficient and work for the people,” he said.
He said as a member of the Association of Conservation Districts, he has dealt with land use and natural resource issues in the state.
“We have become very good working partners with legislators throughout the state in crafting laws,” Roberts said.
Kennedy did not attend.