Americans, including those of us in Walla Walla, are fixated on winning and losing. If you don't win the Super Bowl, you are a loser. If you don't win the election, you are a loser. We glorify winners.
But you don't always have to win an election to win.
It should be considered a victory for the public any time a challenger steps up against an incumbent and outlines agreements and disagreements in their positions. The public then can make its choice. Even when an incumbent receives more votes, the process of clarifying positions and defining issues provides lasting benefits. That is one reason the Union-Bulletin encourages concerned citizens to become involved in the process and why we add our voice to the debate by making endorsements.
The recent Port of Walla Walla commissioner race was hard fought and required an automatic recount, an unusual situation locally. In the end, Michael Fredrickson was returned to his position. But in many meaningful ways his challenger, Barlow Corkrum, walked away a winner.
One of Corkrum's main objections to the operation of the Port was what he termed its lack of transparency. He hammered away at the inadequacy of the minutes of the Port's meetings and called for the sessions to be taped. He criticized holding work sessions at local restaurants and paying for the meals of those who attend. He railed against meetings that dragged on for hours, making it nearly impossible for citizens to attend the full sessions. He pointed out the appearance of a conflict of interest when two of the three commissioners accepted a weekend getaway at the executive director's condo in Arizona. He targeted the deferred compensation package approved for the executive director as another problem.
As supporters rallied to those positions, the Port commissioners took notice. The practice of paying for lunch during work sessions was halted. Commissioners announced their intention to work to shorten meetings. The deferred compensation package was eliminated. Commissioners have become sensitized to the perception of the public and have made efforts to announce any time two or more of them will be together at a function.
And the commissioners are in the process of purchasing and setting up an elaborate system to record their meetings as a way to assure transparency.
The Union-Bulletin endorsed Fredrickson because we felt he had done a good job, and there were a few other positions Corkrum advocated that we thought would be terrible mistakes, such as selling off Port property.
Corkrum walked away a few votes shy of winning a seat on the commission, but he affected many positive changes through his candidacy. You don't always have to win the election to win.
We hope other potential candidates for elected office will see this as inspirational and throw their hats into the ring. Some may win election. Others may win by causing changes to be made. The public will win by having an opportunity to hear different ideas and different perspectives and being forced to make a decision.