OKANOGAN COUNTY — Four candidates Lloyd Caton, Jon Neal, Kari Alexander and Aaron Kester are vying to replace Jim DeTro as District 3 commissioner, who is stepping down after three terms.
All four Okanogan county commissioner candidates attended the first public forum of the election season held at the Tonasket Elementary School at the end of June. Each candidate was asked what the top four issues they will face as county commissioner once they are elected?
“Water will be a big issue. How it’s allotted and how it’s used and who’s going to tell you how to do that. Another big issue will be infrastructure I believe, because our roads, our sewers systems and our water systems all need to be adequate for the growth that we hope to happen. Roads. We need to be able to get our goods to market. Whether it’s agricultural goods, fruit, cattle, logging. Okanogan County has a tourist industry also. We need the roads to be so where tourists can travel around and see the sights,” said Caton.
Caton went on to say, protecting people’s rights will be another important issue as county commissioner.
“We went through a tough time here and some people think their rights have been walked on and maybe they have,” said Caton.
Kester said he expects to do a lot of learning if he is elected into office.
“There is quite a bit involved with this position,” said Kester.
Kester said working with people and bringing people together on an issue, while developing a way to get everyone’s opinion, while doing his best to make decisions that are best for everyone, is something he expects to work on if elected.
Neal said the biggest thing to consider is public safety and how the police interact with the public.
“With all the new laws making their job increasingly difficult, mental health will become an ever-increasing part of that. Our current system does not work because of the limited resources they have,” said Neal.
Neal said he has spoken to the Oroville Police Department on this issue several times.
“It’s after 5 p.m. and they are having an issue, they call Behavioral Health and there is no one on duty. So, that is one of the biggest issues I can see coming up,” said Neal.
Neal also said water is a hot topic to consider for Okanogan County.
“Increasing the economic vitality of our county,” said Neal, is another big issue.
Alexander agreed, water is a vital part of the job.
“States around us are drying out and we need to make sure we protect our water and keep it in the county,” said Alexander.
Mental Health is something Alexander said is important to her.
“Working in the schools I realized how much help our kids really truly need,” Alexander.
The housing shortage weighs heavily on Alexander’s mind as she looks at the county and the tough issues she will be faced with, if elected as county commissioner. Alexander said she believes thriving small businesses is another matter she will consider if elected.
Candidates were asked to define personal property rights.
“Personal property rights in my mind are being allowed to do, within reason, what you want to do with your property. I think everybody should be able to do what they deem fit as long as it doesn’t adversely affect their neighbors health wise, noise, or whatever those situations may be,” said Neal.
Alexander said as long as it doesn’t affect someone else’s rights.
“I really don’t know how to define that,” said Alexander.
She said personal property is your property and no one should take it away from you.
“You should be able to do what you want,” said Alexander.
Caton said he agreed with the other candidates regarding personal property.
He added that he believes personal property should be able to be used by the owner as they choose.
“As long as it doesn’t interfere with the neighbors too much,” said Caton.
Caton acknowledged that there are people in the county that don’t like to see the DNR and the Forest Service, buying up property in Okanogan County.
“I don’t like it either, but it’s your property,” said Caton.
Caton said it would be against his morals and values to try to prohibit the owner from that right.
The common theme for all four candidates was the concern of water rights.
When asked where Okanogan County’s tax dollars should be utilized.
“Ensure that the citizens of this county can use the roads,” said Caton.
Caton expressed his belief that more funds should be allocated for use towards criminal justice and policing.
Kester said he would like to see a mental health counselor for the jail and the first responders.
Public Safety was Neal’s number one choice.
“It does extend to the roads,” said Neal.
Neal said it all spills over and it involves us all.
Alexander said it’s a hard choice, and while the treasurer has over 300 different funds that they deal with, she agrees with the other candidates.
“My heart, as a teacher, is with the youth,” said Alexander.
She believes mental health is the biggest concern.
Candidates took turns answering various questions regarding private land, public lands, what they would do if faced with litigation as a county, budgeting, and if they believed climate change was real, or human caused.
Okanogan County voters in Commissioner District 3 will get their chance to whittle the candidate list down in the Aug. 2 primary. The top-two primary vote getters move on to the general election in November where all eligible voters in the county will get to decide between them.