Clallam County commissioner candidates Linda Barnfather and Jim McEntire have different opinions about what the position entails.
At a debate hosted Aug. 26 by the Sequim Sunrise Rotary, Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger asked the candidates what they believe a county commissioner does.
McEntire, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner and retired Coast Guard captain, said he sees three particular functions of a county commissioner.
First, are administrative duties — how to interpret land regulations, which grants to apply for, etc., he said. The second is a legislative function, to listen to people, understand the issues and create policies. Third, he said, is to represent the county’s needs at a state level.
“There’s a task that can be accomplished in Olympia by county commissioners,” he said.
Barnfather listed different priorities.
The first job of a commissioner is to adopt a balanced budget for the county government, she said.
There also are executive functions, as commissioners oversee all departments within the county and serve on state and local committees, she said.
Barnfather said she already has skills in these areas as a small business owner and member of the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau.
During the debate Barnfather capitalized on her private sector and public sector background. As a legislative assistant to former Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, she learned that “We can disagree on things but still get a lot done.”
Barnfather is a legislative assistant to Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.
McEntire said he has 16 years of executive experience in the Coast Guard and in the federal civil service with three years policy-making experience as a Port of Port Angeles commissioner. He said he has a “lifetime of professional experience” in government.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, citing an impending $2.8 million budget gap for the county, asked the candidates how they would close the gap, noting union contracts are up for negotiation this fall.
“We’re gonna have to sweat this one out,” McEntire said.
Everything must be on the table except raising taxes, he said.
“Things of secondary importance will have to be dropped by the wayside,” he said, citing public safety and public health as the top two priorities.
Barnfather said she would take a careful approach to cutting the budget, carefully examining what can be cut and finding creative solutions to save money.
“I don’t think we should do across-the-board cuts,” she said.
Tharinger, a three-term commissioner and first-term state legislator, is not running for re-election this fall and will be replaced by either McEntire or Barnfather.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.