Bob Terry seeks Washington County board chairmanship
Bob Terry followed Andy Duyck in the District 4 seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners back in 2010 — and he hopes to succeed Duyck as board chairman in next year's countywide election.
While he brings his own set of priorities, Terry has generally been allied with Duyck, and he wants to continue the same direction for the government of Oregon's second most populous county.
"We have a good team here," Terry said in an interview. "I want to keep managing it (the county) the same as it is and having it work for the people."
Terry said among his priorities are mental health — the county just opened the Hawthorn walk-in clinic in Hillsboro on May 23 — and housing. Though he said the county's direct role in the latter issue is limited, he would offer more specifics during the campaign.
According to estimates, Washington County is 14,000 units short of "affordable" housing that costs no more than 30 percent of household income.
Terry also said the county must continue to plan for the influx of new residents projected within the next few decades — an influx equal to the combined populations of present-day Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood (300,000).
Duyck announced April 11, at the close of the annual state of the county address, that he would step out after eight years as chairman and 24 years overall on the board.
Terry said Duyck did not disclose his intentions to any of the commissioners beforehand. Duyck did so almost a full year before the filing deadline for the 2018 primary.
Duyck's retirement opens up a contest between Terry — who was on the county budget committee for 12 years beforehand, and who will have to yield his District 4 seat — and at least three potential candidates outside county government.
Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, who has held his position since 1995, has already announced.
Terry expects two others to run: Ryan Deckert of Beaverton, a former state lawmaker and current president of the Oregon Business Association, and Kathryn Harrington of Beaverton, who is completing a third term on the Metro Council.
One of the other incumbent commissioners also could run.
Under the county charter, the board chairman is paid double what the other commissioners earn. That translates into a salary close to $100,000, because their pay is tied to what circuit judges make.
County board positions are nonpartisan. Filing for the May 15, 2018, primary opens Sept. 7 and closes in mid-March. If no one wins a majority, the top two finishers go on to the November 2018 general election.
"With that many running, it will make it almost impossible for somebody to get 50 percent in the primary," Terry said. "That means you will be campaigning for a year, and that is expensive — and a lot of work."
But Terry starts out with the most experience in county government, and probably the most name recognition. Even after boundaries were redrawn in 2015, District 4 — which includes the county seat of Hillsboro, and generally western Washington County — is still the most populous.
Terry, now 71, came to Washington County three decades ago, but not with any long-term intentions of staying.
After Navy service from 1963 to 1966, including a stint on the aircraft carrier USS America, Terry ended up as a turnaround specialist for Borg Warner Financial Services.
"What I used to do for a living was take sick companies and fix them up," he said.
He was living in St. Louis but came to Oregon in 1988 at the behest of Citibank to prepare the liquidation of Oregon Garden Products, a wholesale plant nursery. He refused at first.
"They are growing rocks and that is not what I need to be doing," he said with a laugh.
Instead, Terry was able to turn around its fortunes and sell it in 1995 for $19 million. He also paid off the $1.2 million the business owed the county in property taxes. He gave the check to Robert Davis — now the county administrator — and to Don Bohm, who still works in that office.
"Nobody had ever slid a check for a million dollars across the table to them," he said.
The following year, Terry took ownership of Fisher Farms, also a plant nursery. He retired from that business in 2016.
Along the way Terry became president of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, a founding board member of the Oregon International Air Show, a board member (now emeritus) of Tuality Healthcare Foundation, president of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, a vice president of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, and a board member of the American Nursery & Landscape Association.
His involvement with civic affairs began in the late 1980s when Bonnie Hays, then the county board chairwoman, asked him to help out the Hillsboro bilingual preschool and day care center known as A Child's Place. The center closed in 2010 — LifeWorks Northwest occupies its site on East Main Street today — but Terry became its chief benefactor.
Terry also joined the county budget committee as one of its public members alongside John Cook, now the mayor of Tigard.
"I said I didn't want to go on there unless it meant something," he said. "I did not want to be a rubber stamp for whatever the board or staff did."