Two challengers want to make Karen Valenzuela’s tenure on the Thurston County Commission a brief one.
Valenzuela, 59, seeks election to the District 3 seat she was appointed to in January after former commissioner Bob Macleod resigned for medical reasons. Competing for her position are Pat Beehler, 64, a surveyor, and Dan Venable, 57, the owner of an environmental cleanup firm.
Valenzuela, a Democrat, started the job shortly before county officials had to cut millions out of the county’s operating budget, laying off workers, slashing programs and tangling in a public feud with the sheriff over their authority to dictate reductions in his department.
She likened the adjustment to “drinking from a fire hose.” Valenzuela said that despite the challenges, she has settled in quickly and that the position is a good fit. Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed her to the seat after she finished as the top choice of the local Democratic Party, and the two remaining commissioners were unable to agree on a process to select Macleod’s successor.
Beehler, a Republican, and Venable, a Democrat, have criticized Valenzuela’s handling of the budget cuts and the dispute with Sheriff Dan Kimball. Both said they would discuss options with the sheriff and try to reach a compromise instead of delivering an ultimatum.
Valenzuela called the handling of the budget cuts a “pretty good process” and said she is “not sure what you can do when you can’t come to an agreement with a department director whose budget you control,” and the opposing budget proposal jeopardizes public safety.
Kimball countered that it was the commissioners’ proposal that threatens public safety.
The sheriff has appealed to Thurston County Superior Court a directive by the commissioners to reduce his command staffing to save deputies’ jobs, saying they overstepped their authority under state law. The appeal is pending.
Valenzuela said her experience in public office, including eight years on the Tumwater City Council, differentiates her from her opponents. She said she has the energy and temperament for the job.
Both opponents, neither of whom has elected experience in government, say their time on the other side of the counter qualifies them because they know how the policies adopted by commissioners affect the residents they serve.
Beehler, the director of surveying at WHPacific, a local consulting firm, said he has experience giving employees the autonomy to make decisions but reserving final approval.
“I understand the complexities of county government,” he said.
Venable said the experience with his current business and as a former plant manager for the state Department of Corrections gives him knowledge about two major issues: the environment and criminal justice, which account for three-quarters of the county’s operating budget.
The incumbent and her opponents also have different views on protecting the environment.
Valenzuela, who received a major contribution from a group that supports environmentally friendly candidates, supports infill in cities, keeping rural areas rural, and preserving farmland and critical areas.
Last week, commissioners approved an interim ordinance that restricts development on native prairies in the county. She cited a recent incident in which the county had to step in to stop a person from destroying the Mima Mounds.
“Sometimes you have to ride in like the posse to keep people from trashing the place,” she said.
Beehler supports working with land trusts to preserve sensitive areas but said county regulations have overreached and prevented responsible development on rural properties.
Venable also is critical of those county regulations, saying they’re part of a private agenda to stop growth for false reasons. He said the farmland is not as valuable as has been characterized. He said the county should subsidize for the loss of the value of property if regulations are adopted that allow fewer homes on it.
“I’ve done more for the environment than she (Valenzuela) has dreamed of doing,” he said, referring to his work to return contaminated and otherwise-unusable property to a productive state.
Beehler has received $3,500 from Olympia Master Builders’ political action committee, his largest donor.
Venable has received $500 from the committee.
OMB is the trade association representing the development community.
Christian Hill: 360-754-5427
THURSTON COUNTY COMMISSIONER, DISTRICT 3
The two top vote-getters will face off during the general election in November. Only registered voters in District 3, which includes Rochester, Tumwater and west Olympia, will vote in the primary election. The general election will be countywide.
The winner will finish the unexpired term of former Commissioner Bob Macleod, who resigned at the end of the year for medical reasons. In January, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Karen Valenzuela, a former Tumwater city councilwoman, to hold the seat until the next election. The seat will be up for election next year for a new four-year term that starts in January 2011.
County commissioners will be paid $105,276 in 2010, unchanged from this year.
Occupation: Director of surveying at the Olympia office of WHPacific, a consulting firm. He owned Southwest Surveying for 12 years before it was acquired by WHPacific in 2005.
Government experience: Thurston County Historic Commission, 1982 to 1992
Organizational experience: Former president, Olympia Jaycees and Tumwater Rotary Club; former board chairman of Thurston County Chamber; immediate past president, National Society of Professional Surveyors
Education: San Juan High School, Citrus Heights, Calif., 1962. Adjunct professor, Saint Martin’s University; taught surveying class there from 1983 to 1993.
Family: Patti, wife of 39 years; one daughter; and two grandchildren. His brother Mike is the vice president for extended learning at South Puget Sound Community College.
More information: 360-554-9545; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.patbeehler.com
Campaign finances: As of July 28, Beehler had raised $21,477.15 in cash and in-kind donations and spent $16,200.14. He has $5,277.01 on hand and $2,113.80 in liabilities for a balance of $3,163.21.
1. Thurston Affordable Housing Council, $3,500. The council is the political action committee of Olympia Master Builders, a trade organization that represents the development community.
2. Stormans Inc., $1,000. It’s a family-owned business that operates Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway.
3. Michael Beehler, $500. He is Pat’s brother and an administrator at South Puget Sound Community College
4. Lindsay Berschauer, $500. Berschauer Phillips Construction is an Olympia-based general contractor.
5. Eleven donors have contributed $250 each.
Karen Valenzuela (incumbent)
Occupation: Thurston County commissioner, appointed in January by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Government experience: Tumwater City Council, appointed to fill unexpired term, December 1999; elected, January 2002 to February 2009; Tumwater Planning Commission, 1996 to 1999
Organizational experience: Elected member of executive board, American Public Health Association, 2003 to 2007; current secretary, Washington State Public Health Association
Education: Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley; master’s degree in public administration, University of Washington
Family: Two daughters, Kimberly and Cynthia, who live in California; and three grandchildren
More information: 360-357-7516; email@example.com; www.karenvalenzuela.com
Campaign finances: As of July 28, Valenzuela had raised $17,748.70 in cash and in-kind donations and spent $12,898.26. She has $4,850.44 on hand and no liabilities.
1. Mohammad and Gail Sheikhizadeh, $1,000. Gail has been involved in efforts to establish a no-shooting zone in her neighborhood on the western shore of Eld Inlet, citing safety and quality-of-life concerns stemming from duck hunting during the winter. Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposal last week.
2. Thurston Conservation Voters, $500, a chapter of a statewide group that works to support and elect environmentally responsible candidates for public office
3. Diane Parish, investment manager, Sausalito, Calif., $500
4. Robert Mcintosh, retired, Olympia, $300
5. Mariella Cummings, consultant, Olympia, $250
Occupation: Owner, Advance Environmental Inc., which cleans up crime scenes and meth labs and removes contaminated soils and asbestos; former board vice president for Hardel Mutual Plywood Corp.; former physical plant manager for the Department of Corrections
Political experience: None
Organizational experience: Worked with public and private agencies to help educate the public about methamphetamine addiction and manufacturing.
Education: Graduated from Tumwater High School in 1970. Served in Air Force and Army National Guard for six years.
Family: Wife of 36 years, Cathy; three grown children, Jennifer, Mandy and Todd; and seven grandchildren
More information: 360-259-3828; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.danvenable.org
Campaign finances: Venable has raised $3,860 in contributions. He personally loaned his campaign $2,000. He said he has spent $3,138.
1. Thurston Affordable Housing Council, $500
2. Concrete Recyclers, Tumwater, $500
3. Hart Brothers Trucking, Olympia, $400
4. Mike Chun, general manager and principal, Associated Environmental Group, $300
5. Two donors contributed $200 – Wayne and Linda Rhodes, and Stephen Venable, his brother, all of Olympia.