Reading multiple online posts, comments, emails, various newspaper editorials/articles and letters-to-the editor while also having conversations to people from all walks of life within our communities over the last several months regarding Commissioners Ray Campbell and Sheilah Kennedy’s job performance during their first term in office, I urge my fellow Okanogan County citizens to be cautious when forming their own personal opinions.
In the interest of full disclosure I worked on Commissioner DeTro’s first campaign, managed Commissioner Campbell’s campaign and voted for Commissioner Kennedy along with the majority of currently elected officials in Okanogan County. I am a current Okanogan County Farm Bureau board member and a member/volunteer for various groups and organizations within our county. I do not receive a federal, state, county or grant-backed paycheck funded by the taxpayers of our county, state or nation. I have no desire or plans to hold any elected office or public employee position and am not related to any elected officials in Okanogan County. Nonetheless, I do attend a large number of the county meetings and meetings across the state on my own time and dime—99% of the time representing myself—to confirm that the elected officials I have supported are doing their jobs and are representing their constituents.
At every county board or department meeting I have attended, Commissioners Campbell and Kennedy have always put the health, welfare and safety of Okanogan County’s citizens above all else. They have never shied away from the hard questions or issues; although, conventional wisdom clearly dictated that their questions and demands for accountability from all county and state departments to their constituents would be akin to committing social and political suicide. They have both always conducted themselves in a straightforward, open, honest, professional and courteous manner even when confront with blatantly rude and inappropriate behavior from state department and county employees. This is also the very first time to my knowledge that Okanogan County Commissioners have NEVER taken the levy shift of $500,000 (which is legal) from Public Works to balance the budget. Commissioners Campbell and Kennedy have also refused to take in-county travel—which was voted in by p rior commissioners—and opted not to take a pay increase for themselves as was approved prior to their election to office.
Okanogan County departments that have been allowed to run amuck unchecked and unchallenged for decades are finally being forced—albeit kicking and screaming—by Commissioners Campbell and Kennedy to:
-Account for positions that have been budgeted for but never filled. Justify self-given employee pay increases within budgets that have already run through their reserves.
-Justify why rates for services should be raised to pay those 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.
-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.
-Justify why some county employees are being offered job contracts that guarantee them outstanding benefits, pay scales and job security multiple years into the future on a scale competing with some Fortune 500 companies and leaving little room within the contracts for disciplinary actions should the need arise when an employee is not performing—when the county and the citizens paying these wages are struggling to even make ends meet.
-Justify why public inclusion and process have not occurred over the years regarding public assets. Demand coordination from state and federal agencies so the people of Okanogan County actually have a say in what happens in our county for the first time ever. The list could go on.
Considering that I have personally seen and witnessed all of the above, I urge you to please do your own research before judging Commissioners Campbell and Kennedy. Meetings are open to the public and the majority of documents are available upon request regarding many of the issues tearing our county apart. If you have questions, call Commissioner Campbell and Kennedy or invite them to a meeting. How can you expect to get a straight answer if the people in question aren’t even at the table with you? Consider the source of where a lot of the turmoil and information within our community is coming from and where those sources’ personal connections and interests lay. And finally, don’t rely on my word or anyone else’s. I have faith in you—the taxpayers and citizens of Okanogan County—to do your due diligence and form your own unbiased opinions.