Style on the job shows contrast

Take your pick: shirtsleeves or consensus.

The men competing for a spot on the Thurston County Commission go after problems in markedly different ways and don't mind saying so.

Republican challenger Kevin O'Sullivan touted his hands-on approach during a debate with Democratic incumbent Bob Macleod at a Rotary Club meeting Monday.

"I really do roll up my shirt sleeves. I leave the courthouse. I go out there and check it out," said O'Sullivan, recalling his term as a county commissioner from 1999 to 2002.

When a constituent called about paving a rural road, O'Sullivan said, he met a county worker on the spot at 6 a.m. When the worker didn't have a tape measure, he produced his, O'Sullivan said.

Macleod, who defeated O'Sullivan in 2002, said he brought a more thoughtful approach to the commission.

"I'm more committed to finding solutions at the table, rather than running around outside. Some times the solutions are found by working it out at the table," Macleod said.

Macleod said the commission's job is to balance the demands placed on the county, from paying for jail space to protecting the environment.

"All the dots are connected in county government," he said. "It takes a particular aptitude to understand it."

Land-use issues in particular have divided the two candidates. Building industry interests have backed O'Sullivan, including spending $26,000 through a committee called Progress for Thurston.

Both candidates said they would have to obey the property-rights Initiative 933 if it passed, but O'Sullivan would like to see it pass, while Macleod opposes it.

The initiative would require the government to pay private landowners if their land values were affected by regulations, and would compensate the owners for regulations imposed over the past 10 years.

"What I believe it's going to do is bring accountability to local government," O'Sullivan said.

Macleod said the initiative would throw the county's budget and its services out of balance.

"It presupposes that property rights are absolute," Macleod said. "They are not absolute. If you want to make a simple analogy, it's your right to swing your fist ends at my nose."

The race will be decided in the Nov. 7 general election.