Sept. 16 Daily News editorial
Two seats on the three-member Cowlitz County Commission are before the voters in the November election. We expressed a preference for Dennis Weber over Terry McLaughlin in one of the races last week and offer an endorsement of incumbent Mike Karnofski over political newcomer Steve Rader today for the other.
It wasn't that our Editorial Board wasn't impressed with Rader. The 36-year-old father of six from Carrolls struck us as a man to watch, win or lose.
"You'll be hearing from me again," he said after our discussions had concluded.
We wouldn't be at all surprised if that were true.
Whatever the results of the election, however, the commission will be short on experience. Retiring Chairman George Raiter will be replaced by either McLaughlin or Weber, guaranteeing at least one "freshman" on the panel. Dropping Karnofski in favor of Rader would hike that number from one to two and would leave James Misner, elected in 2010, as the body's senior member.
Karnofski hasn't been around that much longer than Misner, but his diverse backgrounds in finance, technology and human resources allowed him to get up to speed very quickly. If re-elected, it's quite possible he'd be the choice to replace Raiter as the commission's chairman.
We thought it was incumbent upon Rader to make a strong case that Karnofski needed to be pushed aside in favor of even more "new blood" and we don't feel the case was made.
They seemed to hold many of the same positions on issues important to our Board:
• The proposed Millennium coal terminal? Both said they'd favor it when and if Millennium secured all necessary permits.
• The Castle Rock gun range and the Headquarters Road landfill? Both saw those projects as good deals for the county.
• Mount St. Helens? Both want to retain management by the U.S. Forest Service.
• Attracting new business and more employment to the county? We didn't expect either of them would oppose that.
They differed on the efficiency of the county's Building and Planning Deprtment, Karnofski saying performance was improving while Rader called the department "a mess" and cited it as an impediment to bringing new business into the area.
The majority of Rader's early endorsements, in fact, have come from the region's business community and fellow Republicans. Karnofski, in contrast, has the support of Raiter, Misner, four of the county's five mayors, the Longview and Kelso chiefs of police and numerous city council members from Woodland to Longview in addition to some of the community's business leaders.
If anything on Karnofski's record marks him as "anti-business," we haven't seen it. Before retiring from Weyerhaeuser, Karnofski spent most of his career in the private sector.
At one point, Rader said he was prepared to be innovative and aggressive in dealing with the various unions and professional organizations that represent members of the county's workforce,
"When you're negotiating with a union," Karnofski replied, "you can't just talk about what you want to talk about. You have to talk about what's on their list, too."
While there's always a place for new faces and new ideas, they won't be in short supply on the commission. Mike Karnofski adds an element of "been there, done that" and has earned our endorsement.