Taking the Thurston County reins

County’s search for a manager yielded Cliff Moore, a local face with lots of global experience

lpemberton@theolympian.comDecember 2, 2013 

Cliff Moore, left, speaks as the Thurston County Board of Health recognizes Dr. Diana Yu on Nov. 12. Moore was named county manager in October after an interim stint.


A familiar face has taken the helm of Thurston County.

After a national search, the Board of Commissioners named Cliff Moore as the new county manager in late October.

Moore had served as interim manager since Aug. 15 when former manager Don Krupp left to be administrator of Clackamas County, Oregon.

Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela said Moore’s skills and experience were very competitive with other candidates.

“Thurston County is fortunate to have someone of his caliber for our county manager,” she said.

Moore was director of the county’s Resource Stewardship Department for 41/2 years, a role in which he oversaw a variety of programs and departments including recreation, land use and permitting, stormwater, noxious weeds, Thurston County Fair and the Washington State University Thurston County Extension office.

Prior to that, he was director of the WSU Thurston County Extension office for six years.

Moore, 57, talked about his new job in an interview with The Olympian. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Question: Tell us about your family.

Answer: My wife’s name is Mea Moore, and we’ve been married for 29 years. She is currently the dean of the College of Education and Psychology at Heritage University on the Yakama reservation.

This is really a capstone for her career. It’s actually really exciting for her, and I’m extremely proud of her.

We’re kind of doing a cross-mountain commute. Sometimes I go to Yakima for the weekend, or she comes over here.

Our son is 24, and is a film student in Southern California. … He’s learning the business, and the next stop will be finding his first real job.

Q: Where did you receive you education?

A: I did my undergraduate work at the University of California, Irvine. My degree is in world history with a focus in Spanish history. I studied abroad in Spain for a year.

I was in the Peace Corps in West Africa, in Togo, from 1980 to 1982.

I went to graduate school at the University of San Francisco, and I have a degree in multi-cultural education.

After graduate school, my wife and I were married in 1984, and we worked abroad in Kenya, Sudan and Honduras.

Q: What brought you to Washington and eventually to the South Sound?

A: I went to work for Washington State University in 1991. My first assignment was working on a grant project with US Agency for International Development scholars to help set up their programs.

I also helped the state set up one of the first distance degree programs in the county. WSU’s distance degree program is the precursor of what online education is today.

All during those years, I also had a partial appointment with the extension. We had 10 community-based learning centers around the state.

In 2004, we were ready to leave Pullman, and I got a job with the WSU Extension office in Thurston County. … I did lot of different community development around Thurston County. It was a very rich and rewarding experience, and I loved working with and for the community.

When the county was having a severe budget challenge in 2009, and was reorganized, the Extension office was folded into Resource Stewardship, and I was offered the job of director of that department.

Q: What do you think gave you an edge over the other county manager applicants?

A: I think it was a couple of things — partly the fact that they knew me and knew that I knew the process of going through and developing the budget and how the county works. I’ve been around for 10 years; I knew a lot of players in the other departments and the key managers.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned the Board of Commissioners wanted to offer the job to you?

A: I was thrilled, and I was a little nervous because it’s a big job and another big change. And I was sad to leave my colleagues in Resource Stewardship because we had a terrific rapport.

Q: As county manager, what will your job entail?

A: My job is to make sure that process keeps moving forward. I do spend a fair amount of time working on constituent issues with the commissioners. I also have direct supervision of all of the department directors, so I make sure they have what they need. I’m the go man. I keep things going.

Q: The county’s $296 million budget, which was recently adopted, was one of your first tasks. What are some of the other big projects and priorities in your future?

A: I’ve been working with staff on the county’s strategic plan. We’re pretty close to a spot where we’ve got a draft ready to share with all of the elected officials.

We’re trying to do a better job coordinating with the military, especially as we’re seeing more soldiers who are here because of Joint Base Lewis-McChord that stay in the area (after they leave the military). We’re trying to do a better job making sure we know their needs.

For public health, we’re trying to figure out how we can collaborate with other providers to promote public health.

Homelessness is a big part of it too. We’re concerned like our colleagues (in the city of Olympia) about the proliferation of heroin. That’s a significant issue.

Heroin, for whatever reason, has become the alternative for a lot of young people. That’s a public health issue.

We’re also working toward moving into the Accountability and Restitution Center. … I’m optimistic that the signs are positive for moving into the ARC. I don’t want to put a date on it because we’ve done that in the past, and it hasn’t worked.

We’re also going to start looking at the 2015 budget early in 2014. I want to give department directors a heads up that the 2015 budget is not that far out there, and it could be challenging as well.

We’ll also continue to support burgeoning small farms in Thurston County.

Q: Is the job what you expected so far? Have there been any surprises?

A: It’s everything I expected and then some.

The staff in the commissioners’ office has made me so welcome. They’re helping me learn the ropes.

I’ve appreciated the interactions I’ve had with city managers in the other communities and the Thurston County department directors, too.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I play the surdo, a bass drum, in Samba Olywa, and I’ve been in the Procession of the Species. I’ve been doing it for seven years. Both my wife and I play.

I play racquetball as much as I can. My wife and I are kind of transitioning from downhill to cross-country skiing. We love to be outdoors.

Q: What do you love about Thurston County?

A: First off, it’s incredibly beautiful. And I think it’s really great how The Evergreen State College has really integrated in the community. My wife is an Evergreen graduate. I think Evergreen has been a real positive influence.

For me it’s a really healthy place; it’s an optimistic place. There are so many smart people, and it’s a place that respects individuality and creativity, and I like that, too.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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