Two weeks after Tanya Ange's first day as Washington County administrator, she found herself under fire — literally.
With a third wave of COVID-19 cases starting, a groundswell of calls for increased equity and thousands of Oregonians evacuating wildfires, including in the mountains along the Washington/Yamhill county line, Ange was tasked as the administrative leader of Oregon's second-largest county during a tumultuous time.
"Going to the fairgrounds, when we stood up literally overnight the fairgrounds as an animal evacuee site, I was quickly brought back to my childhood in 4-H and, frankly, living at the county fairgrounds," Ange said.
She grew up on a dairy farm in west-central Minnesota. "Public sector work was my calling," said Ange, whose first job at age 16 was at a local public ice skating rink, where she says she got blisters on her fingers from unlacing skates.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in recreation, parks and leisure services and then a master's degree in urban studies management from Minnesota State University, Mankato, Ange served as assistant to the city manager and then deputy city manager of Mankato.
Before moving to Beaverton with her husband and two children, she was the deputy city manager of Boulder, Colorado, for four years. She took the reins as county administrator in August.
Ange says she and all county staff are focused on public health during the most difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic yet.
Washington County's $104 million allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been well spent, Ange says, with 57% going to supporting public health activities such as contact tracing and assisting people forced to quarantine.
She added that the county's use of 37% of that money to support the local economy has been vital.
The county was also eligible for federal assistance with wildfire relief. Fortunately, no Washington County residents lost their homes or their lives to the wildfires, which burned more than 1 million acres in Oregon this year.
Moving forward, Ange says supporting mental health during the pandemic by continuing to fund safe community activities, such as Hillsboro's Lightopia holiday event, will be necessary.
County staff are prepared to help distribute vaccines efficiently, she said.
"I want to underscore how important additional dollars from the federal level or state level are to continue," Ange said.
Tasked with carrying out the policies and objectives of the county's Board of Commissioners, Ange says her job is to ensure the needs of all Washington County residents are being met.
That frame of mind comes at an important time.
Washington County will start updating its strategic plan in 2021. The plan, which hasn't been officially updated since 1993, sets the county's principles, priorities and approach to delivering services.
Ange will lean on community input and the leadership of other county staff to ensure that all priorities — from economic development to housing to environmental issues — are set with a focus on equity, she said.
The county's adoption of an equity resolution in 2019 is a key step, Ange said, adding that she will look to Latricia Tillman, the county's equity and inclusion officer, as a guide.
Employees "are our greatest asset," she said. "Providing tools, training, ensuring that the culture of the workplace is healthy so that employees can demonstrate leadership, no matter what your position is, is important."
Ange said she looks forward to using funding from Metro's recently passed supportive housing services measure to support Washington County's most vulnerable — homeless residents, those suffering from addiction and people with mental illnesses.
"It's the whole system of service we need to look at, not just housing," she said.
Ahead of Christmas, Ange said her household is planning a special holiday meal, which will take place digitally with other family members.
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