Thursday, March 23, 2023

A big job, but a good job

Staff Writer | February 15, 2023 1:30 AM

OTHELLO — Recently elected Adams County Commissioner Mike Garza said there’s more to the job than he anticipated, and that’s a good thing.

“What I’ve figured out is that it’s a lot more - elaborate, a lot more time-consuming, is a good word. Much more intricate than I thought the position would be. Which is okay. Which is good,” he said. “There are a myriad of things that a commissioner can fill his days with - all important things. It’s one of those (jobs) where there are enough issues that need tending to that a guy could fill his days very easily.”

Garza was elected in November, defeating incumbent Terry Thompson. He ran and lost to Thompson in 2018.

Garza had been a member of the Othello School Board since 2013. He resigned from that seat when he was elected as commissioner.

Garza said one of the most important jobs of the commission is financial oversight.

“One of my biggest things is fiscal accountability,” he said. “I stated this somewhere during the campaign, that I was going to ensure that every elected official that has a budget is held accountable, and we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars. One of the most important jobs as a commissioner is to oversee that and ensure that funds are used appropriately.”

Garza said public safety is another area where the commissioners have an important role to play. The Adams County Jail currently is closed, and commissioners are working with Adams County Sheriff Dale Wagner to get it reopened, Garza said.

“That is something that I think we need to put a lot of our focus on here in the immediate future,” Garza said. “My understanding is there are some repairs to the building, first off, that we have to tackle. I think those are in the works - I think those are being dealt with as we speak.”

Staffing the jail is another challenge, Garza said, reflective of a bigger challenge for all of Adams County government.

“Something I’ve noticed also is that we need to create an environment where we attract employees to the county,” he said.

Some county departments face staffing challenges, Garza said, and commissioners should work with other county government officials to attract quality employees.

“I think it’s going to come down to, if you build it, they will come. Create the right work environment and I think people will want to seek to be an employee of Adams County,” he said. “We commissioners have a role to play in that, whether it’s through policies, whether it’s through pay scales, whether it’s equipment upgrades, infrastructure, whatever it takes to ensure that employees want to come to be a part of Adams County,” he said.

“And of course, it’s all tied to money, so that makes it a little difficult to do some of these things,” Garza added. “But I believe that with the proper oversight and some good, collective, out-of-the-box thinking - there’s some stuff in the works, and I have no doubt that we’re going to get it to where Adams County will become a place where employees want to come.”

Economic development also is one of Garza’s priorities.

“We need to continue working hand in hand with partners for the development of the county, for the attraction of new businesses,” he said.

The commissioners work with the Adams County Development Council, he said, along with other entities and businesses, and he wants that work to continue because Adams County has a lot to offer prospective residents.

“I think our location is prime. I think we have the utilities,” he said.

Commissioners and county officials should work to provide opportunities for both new and existing businesses, he said. That in turn will produce more revenue for the county and more opportunity for its residents.

Garza is a board member for the Columbia Basin Health Association and serves on the board of his church, Bethel Assembly of God in Othello. He’s learned from his school board, CBHA and church experience, he said, and how decisions can affect what comes later, even after the people that made them are gone.

“You’ve got people looking at you to make some tough decisions,” he said.

Garza was a school board member from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to the end, and that job required difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.

“But at the end of the day, I’ve always said I’ve got to take a macro view. I cannot micro-view anything, whether it’s the hiring of an employee, the implementation of a program, the use of funds, just everything that comes with making a decision,” he said.

“I don’t want to make a decision that’s just for the here and now. I’d rather take a little more time, put a little more research into it, take a macro view of the position or the situation. So future commissioners say, ‘Oh, this is why they did it.’”

Garza said the first six weeks of the job have gone pretty smoothly.

“I appreciate the welcoming of all the folks at the county building. They’ve been very receptive, very friendly,” he said. “And it’s been good, it’s been fun so far.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at



A devout Christian, Adams County Commissioner Mike Garza said he keeps this sign in the office of his Othello business to remind him who’s in the lead.

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