County employee, former reporter seeks DCD post

Code enforcement, affordable housing, planning among priorities

Jesse Major.

Jesse Major.

PORT ANGELES — A county employee who once covered county government as a Peninsula Daily News reporter is running for the elected position of Director of Community Development of Clallam County.

Jesse Major, 28, announced Friday he is seeking the four-year position now held by Mary Ellen Winborn, who is not seeking another term.

Filing week is May 16-20 for the Nov. 8 general election. A top-two primary is set for Aug. 2.

If elected, Major, who has never held elected office, would trade in his present position as a public records analyst for the DCD job. He left the PDN in 2020 after some four years as a reporter to work as a code enforcement officer for Clallam County before moving to public records.

“While reporting for the Peninsula Daily News, I primarily covered Clallam County government, which allowed me to gain a solid understanding of how our local government functions (or sometimes doesn’t function) and to build relationships with key officials in local, state and federal government,” Major said on his website at jessemajor.com.

As a code enforcement officer for Clallam County DCD, “I saw first-hand the struggle our residents are facing,” he said.

“Our citizens are struggling with a lack of effective code enforcement, lack of affordable housing and inconsistent application of Clallam County Code.”

Major said his primary focus in the DCD role would be on code enforcement, affordable housing and planning for the future through soliciting public input for the comprehensive plan update, which is due to the state in 2025.

“My priorities in code enforcement would shift toward the most egregious violations in our county,” Major said Saturday.

The county has the rules it needs, he said.

“We should be using all of the tools already in our code to address enforcement” issues, he said, while at the same time, trimming out those regulations that serve no purpose or even inhibit worthwhile development.

Under the law, the county can first address voluntary compliance, then seek civil penalties in the form of fines. If those avenues don’t result in compliance, then the county has criminal penalties it could use.

The county can treat each violation as a misdemeanor, seek warrants of abatement and even clean up properties at the owner’s expense.

“I would expect that (latter) to be used rarely,” he said. But “we need to be willing to use the tools that already are available.

“We haven’t been,” Major said.

“Code enforcement is a big driver on why I wanted to do this” — run for office, Major said.

“The code wasn’t always applied consistently, and some codes don’t make sense.”

He said a property owner should be able to allow a person to live on the property in an RV that is properly hooked up for potable water and sewer and has proposed the county allow up to two RVs on private property to help ease the affordable housing crisis.

“What I’m proposing would still make it illegal to have massive encampments,” he said.

“That’s an easy step we can take immediately,” he added. “It’s not a real solution to affordable housing, but it’s a step.

“The county can stop harassing people who aren’t doing anything wrong.”

Major said if he were elected he would initiate the public input process on the county’s comprehensive plan update “as soon as possible.”

“It’s a long process, and it’s right around the corner,” he said.

Major said Saturday he had filed late Friday with the state Public Disclosure Commission, although the filing had not shown up online by Saturday. That allows him to seek and spend campaign contributions.

Major grew up in Port Angeles and graduated from Port Angeles High School and Peninsula College before attending Pacific Lutheran University to earn a bachelor’s in communication.

He worked as a journalist in Central Iowa before eventually returning to Port Angeles.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach served as Jesse Major’s immediate supervisor while he worked at the Peninsula Daily News. She can be reached by leaving a message at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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