VANCOUVER — County Chair Marc Boldt stood before the gathering at the 2017 State of the County address Thursday and spoke of a “new venue, new council and new direction.’’
After a year’s absence of the annual event, Clark County councilors, staff and members of the community convened at the Vancouver Hilton to provide a snapshot of recent and future county business and other information.
Boldt set the tone for the event right from the beginning, placing an emphasis on “our relationships, first of all to each other (as councilors), to the county manager, and most of all to our employees, most of you know it’s no secret that the relationships in the past has somewhat been news to some of you and throughout the state,’’ Boldt said. “We are out to change that.’’
Boldt told those in attendance that he and members of the board had just last week attended a retreat the Clark County Fairgrounds, where they agreed on a more congenial interaction than has recently been the norm for the contentious body.
“We started it off with our relationships and how we really serve you and how we serve each other,’’ Boldt said of the retreat. “It was very productive. I think you will see some results.’’
Boldt indicated an example of the new Board of County Councilors’ commitment to treating each other with more respect occurred just last week when the members were considering their support of an I-5 bridge replacement.
“When we came to board time, we were supposedly going to support a bill, or whatever. We talked about it and we did have a position on it, a 3-2 vote. However, thinking about it, we didn’t have time to look at it and some members didn’t have time to read it, so we thought it’s better off not to make that position right then. I think it was a good, positive thing.’’
Boldt indicated the implementation of the Clark County Home Rule Charter, approved by voters in November 2014, would continue in earnest in 2017, “really, for the first time. One of the things is respecting the county manager, but at the same time we have to keep our independent voice.’’
Boldt also told the crowd that he hopes that later this year the county will be able to open Camp Bonneville, a property previously acquired by Clark County from the U.S. Army.
“It’s 3,800 acres of flat-out beauty, unmatched anywhere,’’ Boldt said. “I think, perhaps this year, it will become a top attraction and destination of the entire northwest if not the western United States.’’
County Manager Mark McCauley used his time at the podium to list the many achievements, honors and awards the county and its staff had received recently. He also spoke of Clark County as a community that “values its past,’’ “honors its veterans’’ and is a “generous and compassionate community.’’
McCauley pointed out that councilors last year approved an addition budget authority of $236,000 that was used to provide food for more than 400 veterans, found or maintained housing for 182 veterans and paid the burial expenses for 15 veterans. He also praised the District Court’s Veterans Therapeutic Court for serving veterans “who run into trouble here but who want to turn their lives around.’’
McCauley also praised Clark County residents for donating approximately $2.2 million to Share “to provide food and shelter to some of Clark County’s neediest residents’’ as well as helping the Clark County Food Bank to distribute 4.7 million pounds of food, including 40,000 pounds of carrots grown at the county’s Heritage Farm. He said the community also donated more than $410,000 and 18,000 volunteer hours to YMCA Clark County for services such as safe housing for battered women and support for victim of sexual assault and day care for children of working parents.
McCauley thanked former councilors Tom Mielke and David Madore and welcomed newcomers John Blom and Eileen Quiring. He also encouraged those in attendance that the local economy “has picked up’’ and pointed out the county ended 2016 with more employees than it started with.
Councilor Jeanne Stewart praised her fellow councilors.
“We have an extraordinary group of people on this council, each with unique talents and gifts, both individually and collectively, and I’m very proud to serve with them,’’ Stewart said.
Stewart said her focus is and will continue to be on the citizens of Clark County.
“It’s about the people; it’s about the human beings; it’s about the people’s jobs, the people’s homes, your neighborhoods, your streets, your parks, your roads, your health, your safety, your financial success,’’ Stewart said. “Everything we do, we do for you.’’
Councilor Julie Olson spoke of accountability.
“Accountability is a big deal,’’ Olson said. “Our accountability as electeds to our districts, our collective accountability to our community and fellow councilors, our accountability to our staff and their accountability to you as they provide services to you.’’
Blom spoke of the impact his new responsibilities as a councilor has had on him.
“What we do in government, that impacts education, that impacts the work force, that then impacts the ability to recruit and build the tax base so we can build better parks, so we can provide more resources for public safety and what the county does,’’ Blom said. “Everything touches everything else. We can’t look at these decisions from a linear perspective.’’
Quiring repeated her desire for smaller, more efficient government, the slogan of her campaign last year.
“The elected officials represent the people,’’ Quiring said. “That’s what I came to do, is represent the people. Of course, you need help to do that, both from other council members, but most of all in the county you’re going to need it from the other employees and from our esteemed executive manager.
“I believe a smaller government is a better government,’’ Quiring said. “Any time we can make government more efficient we should do that.’’
Community members were offered the opportunity to submit questions for the councilors and McCauley read some near the end of the event regarding the Home Rule Charter, affordable housing, and the county’s preparedness for a potential seismic event.