By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I think it was an experiment that we tried,” Sissi Bruch, 54, said of the Clallam County post, the only elected community development director post in the nation, at a candidate forum Wednesday night in Port Angeles.
The position was made an elected post through an amendment to the Clallam County charter, which will be reviewed next year.
“I think it’s turned into a failed experiment,” said Bruch, a Democrat and a Port Angeles city councilwoman.
“I think it’s time to make that a staff position.”
That topped Bruch’s wish list in answer to a question from Dick Pilling of Port Angeles, a real estate agent and the county Republican Party chairman, about what county policies or practices candidates would do away with if they could.
Bruch said the current system could end in the election of a person who is popular but perhaps inexperienced about dealing with land-use issues.
Bill Peach’s answer was that the Dungeness Water Rule instituted in January 2013 should be refocused on land use and away from salmon recovery.
“Let’s redo the process, and begin with the fact that this is a land-use planning process,” said Peach, 59, a Republican, retired Rayonier Inc. regional manager and current Quillayute Valley Parks and Recreation District commissioner.
The rule covers much of rural eastern Clallam County and was instituted by the state Department of Ecology to ensure the Dungeness River’s flow is high enough to support both fish and people.
Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon, 51, who filed with no party preference, said he did not have a direct answer to Pilling’s question but would like to see the continued effective use of state and federal grants for various projects.
Bruch, Peach of Forks and Monohon, also of Forks, fielded about a dozen questions from community members in front of an audience of 50 to 60 people during the two-hour Clallam County League of Women Voters forum at the Port Angeles Senior Center.
Each candidate aims to represent the district that covers the western third of the county. The seat is now held by longtime Commissioner Mike Doherty, who is not seeking re-election.
In races with three or more candidates, the Aug. 5 top-two primary election will narrow the Nov. 4 general election ballot to the two candidates who receive the most votes.
Ballots were mailed Wednesday.
Only the 13,375 voters registered in District 3 will vote in the primary. The entire county will vote for the race in the general election.
Another question given candidates at the forum: How would candidates ensure Clallam County has a thriving economy in 20 years?
Peach would work to increase good-paying jobs in industries such as timber and construction.
“I am optimistic we do have opportunities in Clallam County, and our need is for family-wage jobs,” Peach said.
“I’ll work very hard to try to attract those jobs.”
Monohon said a focus should be placed on educating the county’s young people to ensure they can be future business leaders.
He urged “empowering what we have,” teaching youth not only to be mature adults but also providing them with business skills.
Bruch said tourism jobs also should be a focus.
“I think what our future really looks like 20 years from now is attracting businesses that work well with our existing natural environment,” she said.
What two things would candidates change about county government, asked Kim Yacklin, county Health and Human Services administrative coordinator, who is running against Shoona Riggs, county elections supervisor, for the county auditor spot.
Bruch wants more collaboration “for dealing with things like trash and sewage and infrastructure development,” as well as more long-range planning.
Monohon named improvement of county employee morale and a new centralized county computer system.
Peach agreed with the need for better county worker morale and added that the way the county funds criminal justice could be improved to save taxpayers money.
Andy Stevenson, co-president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, asked whether candidates would continue the county’s commitment to completing the Olympic Discovery Trail, proposed to eventually stretch from Port Townsend to LaPush.
Stevenson added that many of the unfinished sections of the trail are in District 3.
All three agreed they were committed to the trail.
Peach added that he was glad that much of the work done so far has used funds other than the county’s.
“I think we are lot closer to the completion of that trail than we really realize,” he said.
Monohon added that connections to Forks and Beaver should be included.
“I use the trail whenever I can. It’s a great opportunity,” he said.
“I fully support development on the West End.”
Announcements of League of Women Voters general election debates and forums will be made after the Aug. 5 primary.
For more information on the primary election, see the North Olympic Peninsula Primary Voter Guide 2014, distributed in today’s Peninsula Daily News.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.