In 2009 I approached the Port of Walla Walla with concern that the Washington State Penitentiary was vulnerable to job reductions and restructuring as some of the older units were not cost-effective to operate. The community needed to pay attention and rally behind the penitentiary as one of the largest employers in the Walla Walla Valley.
The Port got it and before long the Washington State Penitentiary Community Task Force was formed.
The Port has been and continues to be its leader. The Port Commission deserves credit for devoting the financial resources and staff time to make the Task Force effective.
Over a two year period, the Task Force along with our legislative leaders from the 16th District were able to secure design money and capital funding to construct two new medium security units (256 beds each) at the penitentiary. Construction on the new units has just commenced.
The accomplishments of this Community Task Force have been nothing short of impressive during these challenging economic times. While additional job losses may be unavoidable, it easily could have been far worse without the strong advocacy of the Community Task Force.
Another aspect of the coalition I am equally proud of is the direct involvement of community members at Task Force meetings. They have made it clear they value the hard work of our penitentiary employees. These are difficult jobs and it is nice to see community members concerned about their future.
For the upcoming Port Commission race, I am going to be voting for Mike Fredrickson for re-election.
He has been a strong advocate from the first days the coalition was formed. He has traveled to Olympia on several occasions to help secure funding to expand the penitentiary. He has made sure the Port's annual budget includes the necessary funding to have Task Force representation in Olympia by hiring Dave Mastin.
I would urge all current and former employees at the Washington State Penitentiary to support Mike Fredrickson for re-election on the Port Commission. He has earned it.