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'It's difficult to walk away ... but I am excited about my future life,' outgoing board chairman says after unplanned political career.

TIMES PHOTO: PETER WONG - Andy Duyck speaks with U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., after Duyck announced in April 2017 he would not seek re-election as Washington County board chairman in 2018.When Andy Duyck decides to do something, he goes all the way.

He grew up on his family's farm, graduated from Hillsboro High School, and learned about machine technologies at Portland Community College.

Just as he turned 23, he began his own machine shop — then at Hillsboro Airport, now in Verboort northeast of Forest Grove — and got married.

"The one thing I did not know then is that I would have been in politics," Duyck said last month. "It just was not me. It was just circumstances that happened."

On Monday, Jan. 7, he ended a total of 24 years on the Washington County Board of Commissioners — 16 years in the District 4 (west) seat and the past eight years as its chairman elected countywide.

Duyck's tenure is not the longest — Roy Rogers has been on the board 34 years and counting — but it is noteworthy for Oregon's second most populous county.

The county's population was just under 100,000 in 1960, when Duyck was born, and under 400,000 in 1994, when Duyck was first elected to the board. Today it is closing in on 600,000.

Rogers had already been on the board 10 years.

"He came without a great deal of experience. He really didn't understand the complexities of our issues," Rogers said in a video presentation during Duyck's final state of the county remarks in 2018.

"But what he may have lacked in experience, he made up with his intelligence and his motivation. He was a man of great integrity and great forethought of what might be. He was somebody who gave you his word — and who you could trust."

Even at age 58, Duyck will depart as the board's youngest member.

"The way he serves is the way he lives his life," said Steve Callaway, who first met Duyck in 1996, when the future Hillsboro mayor was principal of North Plains Elementary School.

Getting in

Duyck, who had no civic involvement before his 1994 bid, said he was dissatisfied with government "but I do not remember what the specific complaint was."

Duyck's Facebook campaign page suggests that it was the complexity of state and federal tax codes for small businesses. (He did make a losing bid for the Oregon House in 2008.)

News accounts suggest that it was his unhappiness with new state rules defining "high-value farmland" that emerged from a 1993 law.

The District 4 seat on the county board had no incumbent — and the filing deadline was just days away.

"A friend told me I should put my name in and give it a go; don't just complain," Duyck recalled.

His nameless friend also told him: "You aren't going to get it anyway."

He consulted with his parents, Edmund and Gertrude Duyck, about what the job entailed — but not with his wife, Patty.

"It was the first and only large decision I ever made without consulting her — and she has never let me forget it," he said at his 2018 farewell as the audience laughed.

Still, as one of 10 children, Duyck started with name familiarity. "At one time I figured I had 98 first cousins," he said.

His sister, Brigetta, ran a campaign that put Duyck over the top in a four-candidate field.

"I found out we had a lot of talent in our family. I do not like to do things halfway," Duyck said. "I've been paying for it ever since," he added with a laugh.

Duyck has seven children of his own — some were not even born when he was elected in 1994 — and nine grandchildren.

Early years

Although he never heard it directly, Duyck said Charles Cameron, Washington County's chief administrator from 1986 to 2006, described him as a "loose cannon."

"In reality I probably was, because I was impulsive, I took positions before I fully understood them, and I was extremely critical," Duyck said.

"Now I still look at everything with a jaded eye, because you have to dig a little bit deeper to find the truth.

"But I am not so quick as I was to condemn actions of government, because I know the process and I know it's usually well thought out."

Washington County government has an annual budget topping $1 billion and a workforce of 2,000. A five-member board sets policies and hires an administrator.

For areas outside cities — about one-third of Washington County's people live in urban unincorporated communities — the county regulates land use, maintains roads and provides sheriff's patrols, the latter two through special districts.

For all residents, the county provides health and human services, runs the jail and supervises youth and adult offenders, and shares support of libraries.

Even after 1997 state changes consolidated special voter-approved levies into a single tax rate, Washington County continues to use shares of its property taxes for roads and libraries.

"We followed through and did what we promised the voters we would do," Duyck said. "That the money was rolled into our general fund should not be taken as an excuse to use the money, other than what voters intended it to be used for."

Its Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program includes routes that pass through cities, based on levies that voters approved before 1996. (The county has had local-option levies for justice services and libraries since 2002, and voters have renewed them.)


Although their terms did not overlap, Duyck developed a respect for Bonnie Hays, the departing board chairwoman and a dominant figure in county government for 14 years until she left office in 1995.

"At that time, she probably had little reason to respect me because I represented somebody who was going to oppose many of the things she stood for," he said.

But Duyck reviewed many of the policies Hays set out for the county's future — Hays died at age 46 at the end of 1996 — and he said much of what the county has done since then was to carry them out.

"They set the groundwork for what we have today," he said.

"I thought I was going to be a one-termer. But after one term, I developed a constituency that wanted me to stay in there."

He was unopposed in 1998 and 2002, and in 2006, he won a fourth term against Susan McLain of Forest Grove, then a Metro councilor and now a state representative.

Becoming chair

Duyck had announced he would not seek a fifth term in 2010 when, just seven weeks before the filing deadline, Tom Brian announced he would step down as board chair after 12 years.

Duyck planned to return to his machine shop business.

"I did not even consider running for chair, because I doubted I could be elected countywide," he said. "I had no desire to do it. But as soon as Tom Brian announced, I got pressure from all sorts of folks to run for chair."

One of them was Bob Terry, a plant nursery owner and budget committee member who Duyck had persuaded to run for the seat he was vacating. But Terry said he told Duyck he would run only if Duyck ran for chairman.

Duyck won the 2010 primary with a 54 percent majority over two opponents, one of them Commissioner Dick Schouten, who then had been on the board 10 years.

"We have some philosophical differences," Duyck said. "But at heart, Dick and I are friends."

Duyck, Terry and Rogers became a majority on the new board; Greg Malinowski, who was elected to the open District 2 seat in 2010, often aligned with Schouten.

"There have been occasions when we have had disagreements and we have split votes," Schouten said. "But that's democracy."

Board disagreements were far less acrimonious than in the other metro counties during the past eight years.

"I think our respect overrides disagreements. It has worked well for me to recognize that," Duyck said. "If we can work on those things we can agree on, we will be a lot more successful than if we keep spinning our wheels on things we disagree on.

"At the county level, you work with people as colleagues, not as partisans, to try to resolve day-to-day issues for the public. That is a whole different way of looking at things."

Duyck was re-elected chair in 2014.

Duyck said the charter gives wide latitude to the board chair — and he has tried to be a mediator.

"I have trouble describing how it has changed me, but I know it has," he said. "I know I am not the same person I was 24 years ago."

Into the future

Washington County has benefited from multimillion-dollar investments by Intel and Genentech — and state payments to offset property tax breaks approved by the county — but Duyck said a friendly environment for job growth requires more.

When Nike was being enticed to move its world headquarters from Beaverton, it was the Oregon Legislature that intervened with a state tax break at the end of 2012 to let Nike expand.

"But we offered them nothing except certainty — and that says a lot right there," Duyck said. "We offered to meet their timelines about permitting and road investments. I was told they chose us because they know we will do what we say.

"It's better to have a business here grow rather than recruit a new one from outside."

Duyck endorsed Terry for chair, but Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington defeated Terry on Nov. 6, largely on a platform critical of the county.

Duyck also endorsed Pam Treece, Westside Economic Alliance executive director who unseated Malinowski in District 2, and Jerry Willey, a former Hillsboro mayor who won Terry's District 4 seat.

Duyck said he has gone out of his way to make the transition as smooth as possible for all of them.

"It truly is drinking from a fire hose when you come on this board," he said.

"There are so many things the county does that people don't know about. New commissioners have to learn how and why the policies developed the way they were, and how everything relates to everything else."

He will remain involved in some ways. He will be on the advisory commission of Clean Water Services, which the county board oversees but is a separate agency, and a public member of the county Fair Board.

"I have a lot of knowledge I have developed through the years that others see value in and would like to have me back," he said. "But I am being careful about how many obligations I accept."

Duyck said he still has business obligations to his machine shop — and he would like to travel.

"It's been fun," he said. "After 24 years and the connections I've built with different people, it's difficult to walk away from that. But at the same time, I am excited about my future life."

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