Voters in Washington County are in an enviable position.

They live in what’s been the most successful county in Oregon over the past 30 years in terms of creating high-quality jobs, investing in roads and schools and promoting a balanced approach to growth. The county has one of the lowest crime rates in the state, as well as one of the lowest unemployment rates. There have been no scandals, financial crises or high-profile squabbles like those seen elsewhere in the metro area.

So, on the one hand, why would voters in western Washington County want to remove county Chairman Andy Duyck and Commissioner Bob Terry, who helped guide the county’s successes for the past four years?

On the other hand, with the county running smoothly and steady growth in the forecast for the local economy, could this be the right time to bring fresh perspectives to the five-member panel — particularly given the quality of the two challengers who will be on the ballot in western Washington County?

With those questions in mind, we interviewed all the candidates, observed them in public forums, reviewed their records and even met with some of them over coffee. And we were impressed with all four of them.

Both Allen Amabisca, running against Duyck, and Elizabeth Furse, who is vying for Terry’s post, offer alternative views that could prove valuable for the county and its future.

In the end, however, we could not find a compelling argument to toss out either Chairman Duyck or Commissioner Terry.

Despite a few missteps, both have done a solid job over the past four years. While they can’t take all the credit for the county’s economic upswing, they would certainly take the blame if businesses were fleeing the county instead of flocking here.

What’s more, they are part of a board that already is remarkably well-balanced, with the east side members a bit more focused on social programs, cultural initiatives and environmental issues, while Duyck and Terry have made economic development and infrastructure improvements their priorities.

Along the way, the board has continued a tradition of working well with local nonprofits, small and large businesses and, most importantly, local governments throughout the county.

County Chairman: Andy Duyck

Duyck, in particular, has emerged as a regional leader. Despite his conservative-to-moderate leanings, he has supported light rail and mass transit. He hedged not at all in opposing the recent ballot measure in Tigard that requires city voters to give a thumbs up or down on any mass transit project. As Duyck pointed out, the measure, which passed by the narrowest of margins, puts one city — Tigard — in the driver’s seat in guiding transit planning across a wide region.

“To have any single jurisdiction have veto power makes it impossible to plan,” he said.

Also quite valuable is Duyck’s dual background in business as well as farming. He founded a machine shop in 1983 that, now three decades later, is still successful and provides good jobs for 20 people.

We appreciate that Duyck stepped forward to provide at least an extra $5 million per year in Gain Share funds to school districts in Washington County, which allowed the districts to restore lost school days and rehire some teachers. He also played a key role in this year’s Grand Bargain, which restored some certainty to county land use planning.

Amabisca, a former Intel manager, has taken the campaign seriously, and it’s clear he’s worked hard to get up to speed on county issues. In retrospect, it might have been wiser for Amabisca to run for a district seat on the board or get involved with county committees rather than trying to take on the chairmanship right away. We are impressed with Amabisca, but he’s not ready to take the helm of an agency with a $750 million budget and 1,700 employees.

Amabisca, however, should stay involved with the county. He has raised valid concerns in this campaign. It may not make sense, as he’s advocated, to go back to voters to ask for money for an events center at the fairgrounds, but he has hit on an issue where Duyck and Terry have struggled.

The ongoing feud between the members of the Fair Board (appointed by county commissioners) and the Fair Boosters must be resolved. Duyck, with his agricultural roots and support from developers, is in the best position to lead the way out of this stalemate. He should make it a priority if re-elected.

Similarly, Amabisca, with his long tenure at Intel, could play a constructive role, even as an involved private citizen, in helping the county refine its process for allocating Gain Share revenue and getting a handle on how to better monitor emissions from Intel’s Washington County facilities. Neither Duyck nor Terry have seemed eager to take on these tasks, and a bit of prodding may be helpful if they are re-elected.

District 4 Commissioner: Bob Terry

Furse, a former U.S. congresswoman, is a strong candidate. She has expressed sincere concern about the preservation of farmland and open spaces and has demonstrated a commitment to helping the poor and powerless. She also has advanced an intriguing idea about putting some of the unemployed to work building affordable housing.

Her years in Congress, as well as her upbringing in South Africa, could bring refreshing global perspective to the county board. But, like Amabisca, she has not made a compelling case for why she would be a better representative than the incumbent. More specifics and fewer generalities would have helped her campaign.

Terry, the owner of Fisher Farms, a Gaston nursery with 150 employees, represents a vital voice for business and agricultural interests in the county. He has a good cross-section of skills and solid county-related experience. He chaired the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and the Tuality Health Foundation and previously served as secretary of the county’s budget committee. 

As with Duyck, we have some disagreements with Terry. The county was slow to respond to neighbors’ concerns about the composting center in North Plains, which sits in Terry’s district. And we were disappointed in Terry’s dismissal of the prospect of extending light rail farther into western Washington County and his implication that the county is doing all it can to help low-income and homeless residents.

All four of these candidates have good ideas. But only two of the four can serve on the board. On the whole, it makes sense for voters to keep the county solidly on the effective path it has navigated for the past several years. Voters should cast their ballots for Andy Duyck as county chairman and Bob Terry as District 4 commissioner.

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