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Q&A with Grant County Commission candidates

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 17, 2022 3:35 PM

GRANT COUNTY — Incumbent Cindy Carter has two challengers, Jeff Foster and Dan DeLano, for her current seat on the Grant County Commission. All three are running as Republicans.

The Columbia Basin Herald submitted four questions to each candidate and asked them for a brief biography. Their answers have been edited slightly for clarity and responses have been listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Background:

Carter: I am a lifelong resident of Grant Count; I live in Royal City where we have a family farm growing cherries, apples, alfalfa, timothy and other crops. We have a hay exporting business and also operate a small-scale feed store. I have been serving the people of Grant County as their Commissioner for 15 years.

DeLano: Growing up, I'm not sure of the official label for where my family was economically, but we qualified for free lunches at school and other aid. I remember many conversations about the role of government assistance, and why my parents didn't feel that we needed any government help at that time. That and many other experiences have shaped my opinion of the proper role of government in our lives.

I grew up in Western Washington and lived there long enough to see the increasing traffic congestion, government overreach, and all of the other failing policies play out. Eastern Washington has been home to me and my family for a little over 20 years. I am father to 3 and husband to Evy, my wife of 31 years.

I've worked at many jobs in my adult life, and I feel that this has added to my understanding of the world around me. Some of the more informative were working at a medical device company, selling homes as a real estate agent, and working at an engineering software company, first as a salesman and later in management. I am currently employed at Genie Manufacturing and have been with them for 16 years.

Foster: I was born and raised in Southern Ohio where I started my career in banking. I worked my way from teller to loan collections to lending and then into branch management. In 1980 my father suggested that I see what banking opportunities might be available in Washington. I was hired to work in the Tri-Cities where I was tasked with teaching Peoples Bank policies and procedures for making commercial and agriculture loans to five recently acquired new branches. I was transferred to Moses Lake in 1982 where I was responsible for small and large businesses, farming, and industrial clients. In 1985, Bank of America offered me a job in Kennewick to run their commercial banking team. In August 1986, I was transferred back to Moses Lake to run commercial banking. My responsibilities from 1980 through 1996 included providing loans, investments, and other financial services.

In 1997 I purchased Dave Jones Real Estate Services. From then I owned and operated a successful real estate brokerage. In September 2016, I merged Advantage Real Estate with Windermere/K2 Real Estate and in January 2017, we put together 3 property management companies to form Windermere Property Management Grant County. I continue to manage WPMGC.

Q: What are your top three goals, if elected?

Carter: Behavioral health issues and domestic violence have escalated; the struggle is horrific. I continue to work to improve the quality of life for our friends, neighbors and loved ones. COVID has significantly escalated the behavioral health needs in our community. I serve on a Regional Behavioral Health Diversion Program with our surrounding counties; the jails have become our largest in-house behavioral health facilities and they are ill-equipped to handle this.

Grant County has received CARES funding, ARPA Grants and a host of other assistance grants to administer within the county. The commissioners continue to look for opportunities to benefit the entire county as these grants are disbursed. To date, ARPA funds have been awarded to help all our fire districts and senior centers, behavioral health, domestic violence, coroner’s office, public health and our local veterans service organizations.

DeLano: My top priority will be working with my fellow commissioners and other stakeholders to get Grant County's finances ready for an economic downturn. Many economists are predicting an economic slowdown or downturn, and it would be wise to prepare for that possibility. The benefit to budgeting for that eventuality is that the county would be prepared, instead of having to slash budgets in a reaction to a crisis. Tax dollars are the fuel of our county's budget. If we have not prepared, then we will not be in a position to help the residents of Grant County through the difficult times ahead.

Foster: Making sure the county is fiscally responsible.

The spending of the people’s money is one of the highest priorities of the Grant County commissioners.

The commissioners must be sure that Grant County is able to compete for new businesses, industry and tourism while trying to balance the impacts of providing the infrastructure and services needed. We must find ways and the resources to help make it easier to do business with Grant County.

I promise to work with the Planning Department to develop a common sense approach to planning.

The forecast for new housing needs throughout Grant County is astounding. More and more regulations are making it nearly impossible to provide the housing necessary to handle all the demand, let alone allow for “affordable housing.” Grant County must carefully review its existing requirements and processes and the requirements of even state agencies that inflate development and construction costs. The developers or builders do not pay these costs. The costs are passed on to the consumer.

Grant County has a huge responsibility to protect the safety and rights of our citizens.

Q: What issues do you see as the most important, if you are elected? What issues need to be addressed first?

Carter: Continuity of government with new elected officials, department heads and other new demands of growth and regulations. Retaining employees has been difficult. With employee shortages, it is difficult to deliver services.

With record growth, businesses large and small are locating here; our housing market is exploding but leaving devastatingly low numbers of affordable homes. We struggle with federal and state mandates being forced upon us. It’s a delicate and tiresome balance seeking compliance while molding westside legislation to eastside living. Code enforcement complaints are quite high. This is administered through the sheriff’s office but the commissioners work with the prosecutor’s office on abatements when property owners are noncompliant which is a long process. Each community has different challenges and needs and I will continue working with my communities to address these changes.

COVID-related issues. ARPA/COVID grants administration and oversight, housing shortages, revenue loss, behavioral health and suicide. Grant County has received CARES funding, ARPA grants and a host of other assistance grants to administer within the county. The commissioners continue to look for opportunities to benefit the entire county as these grants are disbursed. COVID has significantly escalated the behavioral health needs in our community.

DeLano: There are so many other needs in the county, it would be very difficult to prioritize them, it would be more helpful to look at it as a multi-front battle. There are mental health issues, specifically suicide rates. Increased substance abuse, which is directly tied to crime rates in the county. There is an out-of-control stray animal situation in the county. We are struggling to get good, qualified employees for many jobs in the county.

Foster: I have been told and have experienced firsthand that the culture or atmosphere in many Grant County departments and agencies is not what it could be. Don’t misunderstand me, the employees of each department are great. They need to know that they are appreciated. They each need to have the training and resources to do their jobs.

I understand that leadership starts at the top. I have experience on multiple boards and in businesses where routine surveys are done. This practice would allow us to find areas of concern by getting feedback from all stakeholders-those doing the work and the people of Grant County. With the information, we will be able to have good input on making the workplace better.

Q: What do you see as the longer-term challenges for the county?

Carter: State and federal regulations on our rural county (from land development to law and justice), jail overcrowding, affordable housing, code enforcement, economic downturn, converting all graveled roads to pavement.

DeLano: As commissioner I want to be a good steward of the tax dollars Grant County residents and others have entrusted us with.

As I mentioned previously, I've worked at many jobs in my adult life, and I feel that this has added to my understanding of the world around me. Many of my jobs involved physical labor, and represent more accurately the majority of residents in Grant County. I can speak with first-hand experience, when your paycheck is the result of physical exertion, your money is a whole lot more dear to you than if your paycheck is for a job that doesn't require physical labor. Not that one job is better than the other, it's just a matter of perspective.

Foster: I believe that government at most all levels is suffering from a lack of trust. Our challenge is to regain and maintain the trust of the people. The first step in doing so is looking at the services and resources that Grant County is providing. Are we doing the best we can? Is there more that could be done? Are there things the county shouldn’t be doing? Constantly asking and answering those questions will help Grant County educate its citizens as to why and how things must be done.

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