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Beach Pace will face Chair Kathryn Harrington to lead Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

COURTESY PHOTO - Beach PaceHillsboro City Councilor Beach Pace will run for chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners next fall.

Pace — who was elected to the Hillsboro City Council three years ago — will challenge Kathryn Harrington, the board's current chair, who launched her re-election campaign in early November.

Although board elections are non-partisan, both Pace and Harrington are registered Democrats.

"My entire life has been dedicated to public service, to collaborative and inclusive leadership and problem-solving," Pace said in a statement announcing her candidacy on Monday, Nov. 29. "I look forward to bringing that leadership approach to the role of Washington County Chair."

The county's board of commissioners oversees the county government. While four of the five members of the board represent geographic parts of the county, the board chair is the only member who serves at-large, representing all Washington County residents.

Announcing her candidacy, Pace said her campaign will focus on several key issues, including transparency, ethics, COVID-19 response, support of businesses and workforce development.

"This race is about who has the right experience and leadership style to guide the county through the challenges we are facing," she said. "Collaboration with the Board of Commissioners, respect for the skills and dedication of county staff and union members, open communication with the mayors and residents of Washington County and the ability to take on issues of any size; those are the hallmarks of the leadership I bring to this role."

The county has big challenges ahead, Pace noted, adding that decisions from the board affect everyone in Washington County, whether they live in big cities, small towns or unincorporated areas.

"I hope to bring all of those voices to the table to influence the decisions that impact us, and promise to listen, and learn, from everyone who calls Washington County home," she said.


Short political career not a problem, Pace says

Pace is still in her first term on the Hillsboro City Council, after being elected to the Hillsboro City Council in 2018 with 67% of the vote over her opponent Eric Muehter.

She is relatively inexperienced as an elected official compared to Harrington — who served as a councilor for Metro, the regional government, for more than a decade before winning the Washington County chair in 2018.

But Pace said her years of leadership experience in the private and nonprofit sectors and the military qualify her to lead the county.

"You can look at leadership experience many different ways," Pace said. "The leadership principles that I follow, those are pervasive."

Pace currently serves as the chief executive of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Northwest, which has received local and national awards under Pace's leadership. She holds a bachelor's degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master's degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University.

A U.S. Army veteran, Pace served both domestically and overseas as the commander of a bomb squad. She led her unit in security operations for the offices of the United States president, vice president, secretary of state and other high-ranking officials both foreign and domestic, according to Pace's campaign.

After leaving the Army, Pace worked in corporate sales and marketing for a decade before becoming director and vice president of the education nonprofit City Year San José/Silicon Valley, where she managed projects for at-risk youth in local schools.

Pace is a member of the League of Oregon Cities' board of directors. She also previously served as a board member of the Westside Queer Resource Center.

Despite her relative inexperience in elected office, Pace has received a few notable early endorsements, including Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, former Metro President Tom Hughes, Hillsboro School District board member Erika Lopez and Portland Community College board member Kristi Wilson.

"I am excited Beach is entering this race and I am proud to support her," Callaway said. "Her multisector experience, collaborative leadership style, and love of Washington County make her a perfect fit for this role. She is an effective, smart and compassionate leader, exactly what Washington County needs at this time."


Government transparency at heart of run

Pace said she hadn't planned to run for county chair. Instead, she'd planned to run for re-election to the Hillsboro City Council in 2022 and had aspirations of becoming mayor after a second term, she said. Pace said someone approached her a few months ago and asked whether she would consider running for chair of the county.

"My initial reaction was 'no,'" she said.

When several others asked her to run, Pace said, she began to reconsider.

Local elected officials and community members have expressed concerns that they aren't adequately informed about the reasons behind county decisions nor sufficiently involved in the decision-making process, Pace said. As an elected official in Hillsboro, she said she has experienced the same issue.

Pace said they were "all expressing the same concerns" about transparency and involvement in county decisions.

The conversations made her upset but motivated her to run with the goal of bringing a more relationship-based approach to county leadership, she said.

Pace told Pamplin Media Group her leadership approach is about forming trusting relationships with other officials and community members, talking to people face-to-face, noting that it has been harder to do that safely during the pandemic.

"Understanding what people need includes getting out to them," Pace said. "Being there and being present and talking to people I think makes a big difference. You have to meet people where they are."

Pace lives in Hillsboro with her wife Jincy, who serves as a lieutenant in the Hillsboro Police Department, their two teenage children and her mother-in-law.

The primary election will take place May 17, 2022.

If Pace or Harrington receive more than 50% of the votes during the May 2022 primary, they will be elected outright. If no one receives more than 50% during the primary, whoever receives the highest number of votes during the general election on Nov. 8, 2022, wins the election.


Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information about the May 2022 primary, and updated with comments Pace made during an interview after the story was first published.


Max Egener
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