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When considering candidates for Cowlitz County Commissioner, we remind ourselves of the tremendous responsibility each commissioner has for the current welfare and future wellbeing of more than 110,000 citizens.
With just three commissioners, it is important that each be focused and knowledgeable about the key issues facing families, workers and business owners in our county – and be courageous and confident enough to know when to act decisively. Three individuals are charged with implementing important functions of state government, especially when it comes to public health and economic development. With that in mind, here are our thoughts on this year’s general election contests for County Commission, District 1 and District 2.
When Arne Mortensen was elected District 1 commissioner in 2016, he brought a wealth of experience to the position. He has an extensive technical and managerial experience in high-tech communications, holds a BS degree in physics and a PhD in oceanography and is fluent in Spanish. On paper, an exceptional resume.
But time and again, Mortensen preferred to push a personal political agenda that didn’t seem to make use of that experience or consider the needs of the people of Cowlitz County. In four years, he has built a legacy as a contrarian and an ideologue, rather than a public servant.
This is in sharp contrast to his challenger, Woodland Mayor Will Finn. Both men identify as Republicans, but Finn offers the kind of leadership that this county needs.
As we said in July, Finn has shown that he is articulate and well-versed on many of the issues the county faces. He wants to continue reforming the building and planning department so it is a true partner with local ports, schools, Lower Columbia College and Chambers of Commerce to help businesses locate here. He speaks of creating a “welcoming committee” to serve as a point of contract for prospective employers.
He supports the new methanol plant and the continued operation of the county landfill by the public works department. As mayor, he has brought a sense of professionalism and order to Woodland government.
He also wants to put more focus on the county’s comprehensive plan to create jobs, and he has shown that focus in Woodland. As a public information officer for the Washington State Patrol, he is familiar with law enforcement and its challenges and has demonstrated high integrity. He has said he is evaluating whether he can hold that job and devote the time needed as a county commissioner, and we trust his judgment in this. He will be a source of energy, ideas and openness for county government.
It is time for a change in District 1, and Will Finn offers that.
Dennis Weber is the incumbent commissioner for District 2 and serves as vice chair of the three-person board, He was first elected in 2012, and we endorsed his re-election in 2016. He has served the county well and we expect important contributions from him in a third four-year term.
As a 10-year Longview City Council member before being elected to the Board of County Commissioners, Weber has considerable experience in local government. He also was a land-use hearings officer for the City of Kalama from 2000 to 2012 and was president of the Longview Education Association from 2010 to 2012.
A local Renaissance man of sorts, Weber even plays violin for the Longview Symphony. He has demonstrated important, steady leadership with the Cowlitz Transit Authority, the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Council of Governments, Economic Development Council, Public Facilities Board, Kelso-Longview Chamber Board of Directors, Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, Park Board, Workforce Development Council, Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization, and WSAC Legislative/Federal Steering Committees.
Weber's opponent is Kurt Anagnostou, also a veteran of the Longview City Council. He is thoughtful and experienced, but no match for the incumbent.
Weber's experience and demonstrated leadership has been invaluable, as has his ability to find middle ground in sometimes contentious discussions. Weber has shown he is a good listener and is constituent-focused.
As an incumbent, an election serves as a kind of performance review — and Weber gets high marks from us.
As we said in July, if you were to design a political platform for Cowlitz County, it might not look too different from Weber’s stance. He’s a Republican who backs gun rights. He also has a teaching background, a strong history of supporting unions and favors the Kalama methanol project. He has shown empathy and sensitivity to public health and housing issues. He is a good match for our community, and deserves to be re-elected.