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Election News - 08/13/04
Democratic candidates differ in experience
Spokane Valley News Herald Staff Writer

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Of the two county commissioner primary races this fall, the District 1 Democratic candidates, while equally enthusiastic and determined, present an almost completely different picture when it comes to their experience and background.

Barbara Lampert, for instance, has run for county offices before. In fact, she competed against Linda Wolverton, also a candidate for commissioner, in a county treasurer race. She has memberships in community organizations but has never held an elected office or worked in government.

Tom Hargreaves also has never held an elected governmental position but has extensive experience on boards and commissions such as the Spokane County Planning Commission, the Spokane County Conservation District, the Port District Feasibility Commission, Entrepreneurs Forum and Friends of the Little Spokane River Valley.

Linda Wolverton, on the other hand, has 11 years as county treasurer and four years as the county's financial manager. She's worked with county budgets and has worked alongside many of the people she would be dealing with as commissioner.

Each candidate, however, has something different to offer.

Barbara Lampert
Lampert announced her intention to run for the spot being vacated by Commissioner John Roskelley early on. This is not the first time she has run for public office in the county.

Lampert has run for state Legislature, county auditor and county clerk. She also applied for appointments to an open commissioner seat and for county treasurer. She and current opponent Wolverton both vied for that appointment, but it was awarded to Pat McGinn. Wolverton went on to beat McGinn in the next election.

Lampert has been active in several organizations, including volunteering at the Rainbow Center in Spokane, serving as an elected Democratic Party Precinct Committee Officer, president of the Spokane Chapter of the AARP, member of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, public policy chair in the AAUW and a member of the Women in Education delegation to Cuba.
Despite her luck in the past, Lampert is confident she has something to offer voters in this election.

"I am not from the inside and never have been," she said. "I have something new to bring to the table.'

Lampert has studied the budget travails in the county over the past couple of years and says one of the way s to strengthen revenues would be to allow development to go on in the urban growth areas.

"We need to speed up the process," she said. "This will add to re-employment and income throughout the county."

She also sees the possibility of reducing upper and middle management jobs in county government to help balance the budget.

"There are too many bosses and not enough front-line people," she said. "For each of these people let go we could hire three line people making for better service for the public."

Another way to improve revenues, she added, would be to bring on more employees who can build revenues.

"Sometimes we can improve revenues by having more police officers, who in enforcing the laws could write more tickets."

Lampert's ideas come with some background. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Washington.

Another aspect of her candidacy is her willingness to serve the people of the county.

"Commissioners are a representative positions," she said. "They must represent all of the county - staying in touch with their constituents. I will represent them with gusto. That's what they want."

Tom Hargreaves
It's a long way between an Air Force career flying fighter jets and participating in flight engineering projects to county planning and conservation, but that's the path Hargreaves has taken over the years. Hargreaves has a degree in aeronautical engineering and was an Air Force test pilot who worked as project manager on the modern F-16 fighter. He also has a degree in the science of management which included the science of making decisions - thus the connection with his efforts today to be county commissioner from District 1 in Spokane County.

"This degree showed me how to take a systems approach at solving land-use problems," he said. "It is most important to look at the big picture when making decisions."

Hargreaves has put that education to good use as a county planning commissioner for the past seven years. During that time, he and the other commissioners developed the county's comprehensive plan from scratch, making it user friendly.

"The issue was readability and understandability," he said. "We wanted the man off the street to be able to pick up this document, read it and understand it."

He added that by making it easy to understand, it speeds up the permitting process.

Addressing the county's budget problems, Hargreaves said he would like to develop a multiyear budget. This doesn't mean he wants to plan a budget years ahead, but it would mean looking ahead to see what needs will be coming up, such as sewer construction or other capital facilities, and then making each year's budget acknowledge that potential expense.

He also would look at ways to balance the budget. He said he would look for and find priorities, something that hasn't been done to date.

"I would look at the whole situation before any cutting," he said. "I will work to revise the budget effort to a broader process that focuses on funding the necessary services and plans for future needs."

Economic vitality stands out has one of the most important issues facing the county, Hargreaves said.

"You take care of that, and that takes care of all of the rest," he said.
He says be does believe in a balance of economy and environment, however.
"We have to be aware of the natural environment," he said. "We need to vitalize the community's economy responsibly and cooperatively. We need to preserve the natural environment vigorously but reasonably And we need to rebuild a county government to one that's first class and friendly."

Linda Wolverton
The only candidate with actual county government experience, Wolverton is relying on her experience in managing people, managing money and budgets and her successes in the treasurer's office to propel her into the soon-to-be vacant commissioner's chair.

Wolverton currently manages a $700 million investment portfolio, believed to be the largest in Eastern Washington, and has managed $6 billion annual cash transactions without an audit finding.

Actually, Wolverton had originally decided to retire after her current term as treasurer was up in two years, but decided she had something to give to the county as commissioner. She is confident she presents a completely different candidate than the other two.

"I have been working with the county over the past 11 years and have proven experience," she said. I feel I have made good decisions while in my office."

She acknowledges that the city of Spokane Valley has had a dramatic impact on the county's budget. She has a little different solution to that, however.

"I would negotiate with the city to take over the services the county is providing it right now," Wolverton said. "This would be contingent on them taking the county employees who are working these departments now and take them whole, getting the unions involved."

She said if the city agreed to take on the employees at their current salaries, benefits and seniority, she would give the city the infrastructure that goes along with those departments.

"As soon as they voted to have a town, the whole thing changed and we (the county) just haven't dealt with it," she said. "The city could decide not to contract with the county at any time, so why wait for a sudden death?"
She said it would be better make the change early on that to deal with it after the decision has been made by the city to drop the county contracts. Currently the city contracts for police, road work, sewers and other services.

Wolverton has two main concerns for the county. The first is the viability of Fairchild Air Force Base.

"I lived in Moses Lake when Larson Air Force Base was closed," she said. "I don't want that to happen here."

Her second biggest concern is the wastewater treatment plant and drinking water in general.

"Drinking water will be our biggest asset in future years," she said. "Businesses will want to be here because of the water we have."

She said the aquifer needs to be protected and the new sewer treatment plant is connected to the water system. She said she would like to see a conservation program in place that would be a true public-private partnership.

"I would like to see landscape businesses providing information on drip irrigation systems and drought resistance plants," she said. "This would have a big impact on the water in our area. We need to address this to promote growth."

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