OCCUPATION: High school teacher.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Co-president, American Association of University Women; Walla Walla City Parks, Recreation & Urban Forestry Advisory Board; Professional Educator Advisory Board, Walla Walla University; vice president, Walla Walla Valley Education Association; precinct committee officer; committee chair, Department of Human Services Advisory Board; secretary, The Health Center at Lincoln.
EDUCATION: Washington State University, Ed.D. (degree expected August 2012); Walla Walla University, MAT; Walla Walla University, MSW; Gonzaga University, Bachelor of Arts, psychology.
FAMILY: Husband, Walla Walla County Sheriff's Capt. Barry Blackman, and two children.
What do you see as the most important duty or responsibility a county commissioner has?
In Walla Walla County, the primary duty is to provide the people with a fiscally efficient county government and to ensure that the county's revenue is used in accordance with the needs of the people. Adequate funding should be held in reserves to fund unexpected costs and important repairs, and assist during a troubled economy. It is imperative that county commissioners effectively balance the economic needs of working families while adhering to a fiscally responsible approach when addressing high-need concerns. Community safety is a priority.
What is your understanding of the relationship of county commissioners to other county elected officials?
The county commissioners and elected officials are associated primarily through a budget relationship. The county commissioners adopt an annual balanced budget for the entire county, yet each of the separately elected officials is responsible for their respective budgets and the operations of their department. With that said the commissioners also serve as a checks and balance to ensure that monies are managed well. In Walla Walla County, I believe it is also desirable when all elected officials work together using innovation and efficiency while conserving resources and accessing alternate funding sources for needed services.
What do you see as the top issues facing the county?
There are several issues facing Walla Walla County. First the uncertainty of our economic security and the potential loss of services to children and working families are of great concern. Secondly are issues that impact our public safety, for example courtroom security and a rise in serious crimes. The county has also been facing a high-risk issue with the emergency radio system that is quickly deteriorating. Finally, the ongoing dilemma of how decisions are made that preserve our quality of life while sustaining an economic base of employment, affordable housing, and the protection of our individual rights.
How would you approach a solution for the issue you see as the top priority?
The county has a considerable amount in reserves -- thanks to the previous county commissioners who grew the reserves during economic prosperity. What the current commissioners have yet to do is establish a strategic plan of how and when to spend the reserves. For example, last year the commissioners instituted furloughs and increased taxes instead of using the reserves -- the rainy day fund intended to assist in times of need. My solution is to establish a plan with public input regarding the use of the reserve balance making it clear to the community how and when the monies will be spent.
If the county did not spend all budgeted current expense funds, how would you propose savings be allocated?
I would propose that 10 percent of the ending fund balance be allocated toward reserves, spending the remaining amount on items or services most in need. I would recommend the elected officials and department heads propose a prioritized list, make public this list and hold several public hearings. These hearings would be held at different times of the day, encouraging public input on what the people deem most important and the best use of the taxpayer's money. After public input, it would be the commissioners' responsibility to discuss publicly their opinion on the matter and make a final recommendation.
Is there an issue you would like to address not covered by the previous questions?
The county commissioner's role is multifaceted. Thus a county commissioner must be adept at collaborating and teaming with others locally and across the state in accomplishing what's best for Walla Walla County, not allowing the west side to dictate. In partnership with elected officials and department heads it's important that decisions regarding county ordinances, land use and public safety accurately represent the voice of the people. Electing candidates with a broad perspective and the drive to address concerns in a very transparent and open-minded manner is imperative to the success of Walla Walla County and the prosperity of its people.