Four candidates for the director of Community Development gathered at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters on Monday, July 26.
Real estate broker Alan Barnard, of Port Angeles, led the opening statements by stating his 20 years as a Realtor in Clallam County give him insight into the development process.
By helping buyers and investors go through the process he has learned what works and what doesn't, he said.
John Miller, the incumbent, said he is running for re-election because he thinks he has done a good job.
"In three and a-half years, we have not denied a single building permit," he said.
Miller is being challenged by one of his own, Sheila Roark-Miller. Roark-Miller, of Sequim, has worked in the Department of Community Development for 20 years and was the county's first female building inspector.
She said as director she would have an open-door policy to the public and employees and would express her gratitude as well as be open to criticism.
Tim Woolett, another department insider, has been in planning for 20 years, with 15 of those spent in the public sector. Woolett, of Port Angeles, was a senior planner with the Department of Community Development.
Woolett said his experience in both the public and private sector gives him a 360-degree perspective.
The fifth candidate, Sean Ryan, did not attend the debate.
Topics discussed included inspection permits for handicapped ramps, problems within the department and the cost of building permits.
Woolett said the ordinances concerning the department are dysfunctional and need more clarity. Once the ordinances are "lightened up," the staff can better work with the public, he said.
Barnard said the department is an economic engine with the power to generate much-needed tax revenue for the county. He wants to change the culture within the office to improve customer service as well as increase outreach efforts, he said.
Miller said he is proud of the way the department runs and the way employees handle what is a stressful job.
"How many government agencies charge you money to tell you no?" he said.
Roark-Miller said staff gets along fine but more can be done to cross-train employees and use technology to simplify processes.
On the issue of code enforcement, Miller touts the addition of former undersheriff Rich Sill as a win for the department.
Miller said code enforcement officers deal with issues on a case-by-case basis.
Barnard agreed that enforcement has improved. Woolett took the approach that punishment for code violations shouldn't hinder solutions, though code violations must be dealt with according to law. Roark-Miller gave the example of an 1,800-square-foot building that was constructed without a permit.
"People are going to do things like that," she said.
Roark-Miller said the department needs to give people understanding to keep them in compliance. There are better ways to handle compliance than "thugs going out there and hauling people in," she said.
Amanda Winters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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