I feel like my term has been a crucible of leadership. I have worked to help navigate our county through an unprecedented pandemic while already dealing with a housing crisis on every rung of the housing continuum. We have done a really good job county-wide in our response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and we are moving the needles on the housing issue as well. I'll start working through my lessons learned and goals on the issues that impact Jefferson County. What have we done? What are we doing? What should we do? What would you like to talk about?
Everyone can see the crisis now. We've been working on affordable housing for years, but with the real estate boom over the pandemic, it's not just workforce that can't afford to be housed in Jefferson County, it's the full range up and down the pay scale. This makes hiring a challenge across the county. But there is reason for hope.
7th Haven, the largest affordable housing project in decades is under construction. The 43 units and will be occupied in 2023, soon to be followed by childcare (another huge need in our community). As the OlyCAP Chair since funding of this project, I've been a critical part of the success on this project. The original Housing Trust award of $11.3 Million took the shovel ready project into bid, but there was still a funding gap. I worked with our state representatives to achieve $400,000 of gap money, and then completed funding of the project with an award of the first $600,000 from our new HB1590 fund. As with many of our large infrastructure projects, leveraging state and federal awards brings our tax dollars back into our community. 7th Haven will house folks who make up to 60% of the area median income.
I supported and we passed with House Bill 1590, a councilmatic increase of 1 1/10th of 1% sales tax ($1 on a $1,000 purchase). With our large tourist economy, this small increase also leverages tourist dollars into affordable housing.
We have a fully staffed team at Community Development for the first time in years and are pursuing a long-range planning strategy aimed at issues where we can support affordable housing and streamline the process, like stock plans for tiny houses and adu's, online permitting with the ability to pull permits online. The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) has removed the charge for Customer Assistance meetings. environmental Public Health is humming along as well applying for its second round of funding to help folks with failing septic systems get them replaced. They have been working to try and unlock the sewer at Dosewallips State Park for the Brinnon commercial core. The leadership of the BoCC has been steering toward equity and affordability throughout our county, and our departments are actively pursuing that path.
Help me continue the work I have been doing and the strong team we have built to address affordable housing.
The embedded video is an independent project by local filmmaker, Dennis Daneau.
Caswell-Brown Village, on Mill Road, is a managed shelter that solved the problem of an unsanctioned homeless encampment at the Fairgrounds. I worked there with stakeholders to reduce harm and neighborhood impact, and we created a safe, healthy shelter for those who need it most.
The encampment at the fairgrounds was everything people complain about the urban encampments. It was dirty, dangerous, and had a serious health and safety impact on the surrounding neighborhoods - not to mention turning off any use of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
With the end of the state eviction moratorium, of which this encampment was an unintended side effect, we moved all the residents to a new bare bones outdoor shelter. RV's and tents. The same people, but with oversight, management and support, is living more peacefully, and have even adopted the nearby section of the Larry Scott Trail to keep clean.
Climate Change adaptation and mitigation are the keystone issues for the future of our planet. While Jefferson County can't solve this problem without the whole world pulling in the same direction, we can be a proactive part of the solution. We have a long partnership with the Climate Action committee and have continued to set high goals for county operation adaptation and mitigation. We are currently working on electrification of both the County Fleet and Jefferson Transit, with our first electric trolley on order.(Read More)
We are seeing an investment on the federal and state level in infrastructure greater than we have seen in decades. With local matching from our American Rescue Plan dollars, the Port Hadlock sewer has $25.8 Million dollars in funding and will break ground next year. This brings our federal tax dollars back to invest in long planned infrastructure that will allow more density in Port Hadlock and create the landscape for the multifamily housing we are so desperate for. While there is county and community work still ahead to make sure that the development pattern matches our values and community needs, the East Jefferson Habitat for Humanity's Mason Street project in the Phase 1 Sewer area will create over a hundred permanently affordable workforce housing units for that desperate population at 80-120% of the area median income (AMI). We need to work to create a zoning matrix that encourages more of this kind of housing.
The Jefferson County PUD has been very successful in applying for grants to take advantage of new legislation and become the first PUD in the state to offer retail broadband internet service. They've raised nearly $24 Million for this valuable infrastructure and have begun design work already. While their accomplishments are their own, their success rests partly on the teamwork that has existed with the county, and my own advocacy. The PUD points to our strong Jefferson County Broadband Action Team, which I helped start and have served on for its entire existence, as demonstrating community support for their applications. They report that the lack of a Broadband Action Team is the reason other PUD's did not get funding. I testified at the state legislature for the bill that ultimately passed and allowed this new service. The County has provided letters of support certainly, but I also pushed us to donate substantial funds to demonstrate local support and double the match required for the successful NTIA grant that will serve 1600 households in rural Jefferson county - nearly all in District 3 in Gardiner and Quilcene.
At the county we are always looking to leverage our limited local dollars to bring the big money to Jefferson County. We are experiencing unprecedented success with this right now, and with your support, we can continue this positive trend.(Read More)
I have learned a lot from working closely with Public Health these last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic. In working with our Health Officers and Public Health on policy and communication strategies, I learned the value of a Public Health approach to COVID-19 and other critical issues of our time, like climate change and gun safety.
This has been the greatest public health tragedy for generations. But I'm proud of how we responded as a county and as a community to the threat. Despite having an older population that was much more vulnerable to the virus, we have half the death rate of the state, which is half that as the country as a whole. We have the highest boosted rate in the state. Our coordination with the KPTZ and our weekly COVID update is a great example of how we have prioritized communication.(Read More)
Our Board of County Commissioners, and all our elected officials’ teamwork and collaborative spirit is a virtue many peers around the state look up to. It has been a tough couple of years, and the positive and responsive leadership at the Board of county Commissioners bleeds into county operations and the county as a whole.
In all my work, I actively work with residents, local businesses, peer municipalities, and even past political opponents to find the best course for Jefferson County. As a team the county is smarter when we listen to all ideas with an open mind and work to avoid the confirmation bias that pervades social media and, unfortunately, much our political discourse as well.
Since being sworn onto the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), I have worked to understand and promote where we can get lean as a county. That often involves the force multiplier of technology, and I have brought some subject matter expertise and support to these efforts.(Read More)
When I came on to the board, there was an ongoing crisis with the Commercial Shooting Range Ordinance, including $150 million in pending lawsuits, and a contentious potential operator who also regularly came after the county on social media. We worked with a proactive and effective community and Planning Commission, some serendipitous state legal decisions, and a rockstar performance from the Prosecutor's office and Department of Community Development to a timely and effective ordinance.(Read More)
I advocated for and we eliminated the Conditional Use for marijuana grows in rural residential parcels, in line with neighboring counties. It was an example of me changing my own opinions based on the outcomes that were negatively impacting all parties.(Read More)
I work to represent our residents (especially from district 3) to the county and represent the county and its operations to the residents of Jefferson County.(Read More)
Many residents reach out to us concerned about commercial forestry practices that occur in Jefferson County. We really don't have much oversight on that use, which is regulated at the state level. This video shares Jefferson County's attempt to pilot more sustainable alternatives in community forestry.
We have taken these values further in protecting critical forestland in the Dabob Bay Natural Area via the state's Trust Land Transfer Program.
We have currently started to walk the talk in regard to DNR's management of our state trust lands, asking for a deferment on a timber sale, Beaver Valley Sorts, that contains quite a bit of 100-year-old forest. We are looking at other methods of keeping our junior taxing districts whole, while perhaps not clearcutting older forests in East Jefferson County. This is a complicated issue with a fast-developing voluntary carbon offset market, and different realities on the East and West side of Jefferson County.
We are actively seeking out stakeholder impact of these decisions and would love to hear from you on this issue.