County Farm Bureau commends County Commissioners

Dear Editor,

Okanogan County Farm Bureau commends Commissioners Sheilah Kennedy, Ray Campbell and Jim DeTro for their tireless efforts in safeguarding and promoting the health, safety and welfare of their constituents and Okanogan County. Their outstanding leadership before, during and after two of the most devastating firestorms ever to befall our state is above reproach and sets the standard for elected offices everywhere.

The current Okanogan County Commissioners have challenged state and federal agencies to acknowledge that Washington RCWs trump status quo policies and procedures. Commissioners Kennedy, Detro and Campbell have demanded state and federal coordination with Okanogan County from their first day in office. The people of Okanogan County actually have had an impact and influence on what happens in their county at the local, state and federal level.

Their efforts have borne fruit and received high praise from the state and federal incident command teams and private citizens battling the flames that consumed our county and agricultural lands for two years in a row. During both fire storms the commissioners have been the boots on the ground from day one, personally following through on any issues or problems until they had a solution or answer for the people of Okanogan County and have often been the first to step forward and lend a hand before it was even requested. Commissioner Campbell even pulled and rolled fire hose to assist the fire departments as they were in such need.

The Commissioners have always prioritized Okanogan County citizens and the County itself above themselves. Commissioners Kennedy and Campbell have never taken the in-county travel pay that is in their benefits package. Furthermore, all three of the Commissioners opted out of the salary increases for their positions that was voted in prior to Kennedy and Campbell’s election to office. They have spent countless hours in Olympia and meetings across the nation fighting for the needs of Okanogan County and our agricultural lands and natural resources. Some of these battles included:

  • Ensuring funding was included in the state capital budget to rebuild local water systems and 911 infrastructure damaged during the Carlton Complex fire.
  • Compiling testimonies and supporting documentation for legislation that would have brought control and oversight of wildfires back to the local level.
  • Attending daily fire briefings in Chelan and Okanogan every morning at 6 AM and 10 AM and at 8 PM; all while crisscrossing back and forth across the entire county addressing citizens’ needs and getting direct input from them on how best to address the fire issues.
  • Instantly starting the legal process and working with state and federal legislators on legislation and government programs and policies to get our county’s citizens back in their homes and their livestock out on the lands as soon as possible.

Not only have the commissioners done a great job during the fires, but they have also tackled some very difficult issues that the county has been facing for a number of years due to limited budgets. As all of us in Okanogan County know, budgets are very tight and we all have to watch what we spend and save. This is no different for the County Commissioners who ran for election on the fact that accountability and managing the county like a business would return.

In so doing, the commissioners and other elected officials have:

  1. Accounted for positions that have been budgeted for but never filled.
  2. Asked departments to justify employee pay increases within budgets that have already run through their reserves.
  3. Asked departments to justify why rates for services should be raised to pay for employees’ pay increases when the taxpayers (who fund the paychecks and pay the increased rates) are already struggling and do not receive those same benefits themselves.
  4. Asked departments to justify why and how the county departments can complete jobs cheaper, better and more efficiently than the private businesses—since the county depends on those businesses and their employees to provide a large portion of the county budget.
  5. Asked departments to justify why public inclusion and process have not occurred over the years regarding public assets.
  6. Balanced the county budget without taking the allowed levy shift of $500,000 (which is legal) from the Public Works account.
  7. Balanced the county budget without increasing property taxes by 1% annually as allowed by law.
  8. Passed the comprehensive land use plan that had not been updated since 1965 that started over 10 years ago.

While not all decisions of the commissioners have been popular, this set of commissioners had done a great job in the opinion of the Okanogan County Farm Bureau Board who represents 900 member families.

Okanogan County Farm Bureau