Hover, Haven offer thoughts on issues
In a “virtual” candidates’ forum sponsored by the Twisp Valley Grange last week, incumbent Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover (R) and challenger Katie Haven (D) agreed on several key issues but set out different priorities for the county. Among the notable contrasts were the candidates’ overall tone and the philosophy that guides their approach to leadership.
The forum, which was presented live on YouTube, also included the two candidates for Position 1 in the state’s 12th Legislative District: First-term incumbent Rep. Keith Goehner (R-Dryden), a Republican, and challenger Adrianne Moore, a Democrat (see related story for an account of their portion of the forum).
The forum was not conducted as a formal debate. The candidates were each asked to answer a series of questions. The event was moderated by George Schneider. The forum event drew as many as 112 online “attendees,” according to YouTube’s running tally.
Hover defines a leader as someone with vision, integrity and empathy, a good communicator who can make hard decisions. Growing up on a farm in the Methow Valley, he learned about hard work and developed problem-solving skills at a young age, Hover said. Studying business and a background in management prepared him for the commissioner’s job.
Three-and-a-half years into his first term, Hover underscored his knowledge of how the county works. He oversaw the county’s budget so that they no longer rely on loans and have built up a reserve fund. He increased trust within the government, making things run more efficiently.
Haven defines leadership as the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. A good leader generates enthusiasm, helps motivate others, and is able to make decisions. But a good leader also needs humility, she said. A good leader must appoint and rely on experts and advisers — and listen to their feedback, even if it isn’t what you expected or wanted to hear, she said.
Haven points to her 22 years in Okanogan County working in agriculture and caring for the land as central to her qualifications. During her previous career as an officer in the United States Merchant Marine, she was chief engineer on an ocean-going passenger ship, managing complex projects and making critical decisions under pressure.
Hover ticked off his priorities for the county in order of importance: health and safety, government services, maintenance and infrastructure, reserve accounts, and all other projects and expenditures.
Haven’s priorities for the county are to fully fund the county’s Public Health system and allocate more money for courts. She emphasized the importance of the census, and of making sure all county residents respond so that the county gets the federal money it deserves for things like hospitals, schools and roads.
Several questions touched on the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health issues. The commissioners could have done a better job in helping the county weather the crisis, Haven said. She faults the county’s leaders for not motivating residents to follow guidelines from health professionals, including wearing a mask — and for not modeling these behaviors themselves. She supports the mandatory use of facial coverings.
Lack of funding for Public Health has prevented the county from adequately addressing the crisis, Hover said. The county is prepared with an emergency-management plan and the commissioners have followed the lead of Public Health. While Hover believes masks stop the spread of disease and thinks people should wear them, he doesn’t support making them mandatory.
Both candidates noted that local hospitals have struggled during the pandemic. Hover worked with federal officials to find money that could help hospitals bridge the gap while elective procedures were on hold.
Haven advocates a nationwide change in the health care system so that small, rural hospitals are financially sound.
Dealing with divisiveness
Responding to a question about “unhealthy political divisions in our county and society,” Haven said she’s committed to addressing racism in all its forms and to leading by example. The county’s leaders have to make Okanogan county a welcoming place for everyone, no matter what they look like, what language they speak, where they worship, or what they call themselves, Haven said. If elected, she’d create an advisory group on diversity with representatives from the government and the community.
Hover blamed much of the divisiveness on the lack of accountability some people feel on Facebook and social media, where they say whatever they want because they feel they’re protected by the screen. People need to listen to others and recognize there are other points of view, he said.
Hover believes that Okanogan County law enforcement officers treat everyone equally. If an issue arose, he would take it up with the sheriff and other officials.
To understand people’s experiences, it’s necessary to hear from people on the receiving end of law-enforcement actions and invite everyone to be part of the conversation, Haven said.
Both candidates acknowledge the crucial issue of water in the county. Haven wants to involve the public in setting priorities — whether that’s agriculture, development or fish habitat — as climate change makes water even scarcer.
Supporting the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative is one of the biggest things we can do to create healthy watersheds, Hover said. He also backs efforts to make irrigation systems more efficient.
The candidates got to propose the question they wished they’d been asked. Haven would have wanted to talk more about the impact of climate change on every aspect of our lives.
Hover wanted an opportunity to provide more details about how government runs, how the county spends money, and about the many responsibilities of a county commissioner.