Three take seats on Washington County board
Three new commissioners sworn in Tuesday (Jan. 8) say their greatest challenge lies in Washington County's growing and diversifying population.
As if to underscore that point, Judge Oscar Garcia of Washington County Circuit Court administered the oaths to Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington of Beaverton and Commissioners Pam Treece of Beaverton and Jerry Willey of Hillsboro for four-year terms.
Harrington in turn swore in John Hutzler, unopposed for a third term as the independently elected county auditor.
Their terms actually started Monday, but Tuesday was their first official business meeting.
The ceremony marked perhaps the greatest turnover on the county board in almost a quarter century. Three new members also took office in 2011, but Chairman Andy Duyck already had been on the board 16 years, and Commissioner Bob Terry had been a public member of the county budget committee for 14 years.
Among those in a packed auditorium at the Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building in Hillsboro were Duyck, who chose not to seek re-election, and Tom Brian, a former Tigard mayor who was county board chairman from 1999 to 2011.
The holdover commissioners are Dick Schouten, who has been on the board 18 years, and Roy Rogers, 34 years. Their current terms end in 2020.
All three new commissioners touched on issues they raised during their campaigns: Traffic congestion and transportation needs, availability and affordability of housing, and job and business growth.
Harrington said she will offer details in a more traditional state of the county address in a few months.
"We have some major challenges as the county continues to grow and diversify and have needs that we can only hope to partially address," said Rogers, now Oregon's longest-serving county commissioner.
While all pledged continuity with the past, they also acknowledged the county's growth and diversity. Washington County is Oregon's second most populous with almost 600,000 people — and a third of them are other than non-Hispanic whites, who still account for two-thirds of the total.
There are still no minority-group members on the county board, but there are now two women — and one is the first woman to lead the board in 20 years, since Bonnie Hays did so in 1987-95 and Linda Peters in 1995-99.
Harrington, 58, a former high-tech worker and a Metro Council member from Beaverton for the past 12 years, defeated Terry for board chair by 58 percent to 41 percent Nov. 6. Jim Moore of Pacific University in Forest Grove described it as "the most partisan nonpartisan election" in recent memory.
"As the chair of the board of commissioners, I will work to shape our opportunities to the benefit of all while navigating our challenges so that no one is left behind," Harrington said. "And of course, preserve what is so special to Washington County today.
Harrington's husband, Beaverton City Councilor Marc San Soucie, attended the ceremony. But he stayed in the audience when she took her oath.
Although all board positions are nonpartisan, the 2018 election resulted in a shift from a 3-2 Republican majority to a 3-2 Democratic majority.
But party lines played less of a role in determining the outcome of the other positions, both decided handily in two-person contests in the May 15 primary.
Treece, 67, unseated two-term Commissioner Greg Malinowski in District 2 (northeast), the first incumbent to lose in 30 years. Both are registered Democrats. Malinowski mustered most Democratic endorsements — but Treece was backed by former Gov. Barbara Roberts.
She has been executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance for six years and will continue in that role, subject to a review by the alliance board in six months. (County board positions are technically part time, although the board chair is paid about $100,000 annually; the others are paid $40,000 each.)
Treece was accompanied at the oath-taking by her 93-year-old mother, Paula Holzmann — a World War II veteran of the Royal Air Force — her daughter, Hillary Oda, and granddaughters Addison and Olivia Oda. She also has a grown son, whose family is on the East Coast. She is married to Marty Treece, who has owned his own real estate firm in Portland for 45 years.
"Across all areas, I will have a strong focus on equity, diversity and inclusion," Treece said. "We need to do everything we can at the personal level, the community level and policy work to make sure that all who call Washington County home are welcomed and included as we move Washington County forward together."
Willey, 70, a certified public accountant, was mayor of Hillsboro from 2009 to 2017, and had been on the city council previously. He defeated Kim Culbertson of Hillsboro, who was backed by the Democratic Party, for the District 4 (west) seat that Terry vacated to run for board chair.
Hillsboro is not only the county seat but also its largest city — and District 4 is the largest in area.
Willey was accompanied by his wife, Judy, and his daughter, Kasi Woidyla.
Much of the new multimillion-dollar investment in Washington County has come from chip-maker Intel and biotechnology company Genentech in Hillsboro — and the county is tied with Benton and Hood River counties at 3.3 percent for the lowest unemployment rate in Oregon.
"With that blessing and opportunity, we also have a responsibility … for leadership in this region and the state," Willey said.
"But I also believe we have a new responsibility: Diversity, inclusionary thoughts and hiring practices, everything that we do. We invite everyone in Washington County — all the residents and future residents — to come and be a part of our process."
NOTE: Adds home communities for new board members.