Andy Hover was elected to the District 2 seat on the Okanogan County Commission in 2016, when he defeated Ashley Thrasher.
Please provide information about your background.
I was born in Brewster and grew up on a ranch just outside of Winthrop. After high school I attended Washington State University where I got a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Technology and Management as well as a business minor. I have worked doing material-integrity testing for nuclear power companies, managed Winthrop Ace Hardware for four years, and managed North Valley Lumber for seven years. I have a son, age 14. Most of my personal interests involve being outdoors in Okanogan County.
How would you describe your political views?
I consider myself a common-sense conservative. The government should be a service to the people and therefore must run like one.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Okanogan County commission and what background and skills make you the best choice?
I enjoy helping people and solving problems. As a county commissioner, you are able to do these on a very large scale. My business and management skills greatly helped me in my first term, and the four years in office allowed me to gain a much greater understanding of working with state and federal agencies, as well as a greater understanding of what it means to be a representative of the people.
What do you consider to be the top three issues facing Okanogan County? Why? What should the county do to address these issues?
Our economy, our land and water planning, and the division among county residents that seems to keep growing are three top issues facing Okanogan County today. I feel this way because they are what the county commissioners spend most of their time discussing and listening to. These are very broad subjects, and it’s hard to give a single solution to address them adequately. If we stay focused on our goals and slowly pick away at them, we will eventually end up where we want to be. I do not believe that there is an end-all, be-all decision that would provide resolution.
Okanogan County has been working on its comprehensive plan for some time and is facing a lawsuit over inadequacies in the current plan. What’s the best approach to address diverse situations across the county?
Okanogan County is an extremely large and diverse landscape. Land-use planning on a countywide basis is also just as complex. I feel that we are moving back toward the ideals of agriculture and a rural lifestyle; however, these also must be balanced with trying to better the economy and meet housing needs. I think this can easily be shown by issues arising from the Methow instream-flow rule that precludes the building of affordable housing using exempt wells. The best approach to resolving these issues is transparency and bringing solutions to a table where a diverse stakeholder group exists.
Water is an increasingly serious issue throughout the state, and particularly for arid counties like Okanogan. What are the primary water issues in Okanogan County and the Methow Valley? How would you address them?
Primary issues for Okanogan County are permit-exempt well use and sale or transfer of agricultural water out of the county. Water Resource Inventory Area 48 (primarily the Methow Valley) has an instream-flow rule that sets reserves for single-domestic use and stock water. As of late, the verbiage in the rule has come under scrutiny, creating uncertainty. In order to address the uncertainty, Okanogan County must put together a group of stakeholders to better ascertain needs and goals for the Methow watershed. This would be something I hope to accomplish in the next four years.
The sale of water out of the county becomes a complex issue and, as such, the Washington Department of Ecology created a working group to help provide recommendations to the Legislature.
Some people who want to build homes in the Methow Valley face hurdles in obtaining a legal water source. There’s a moratorium on subdividing land for residential development. How should the county address this situation?
In order to address the uncertainty of legally available water, Okanogan County must put together a group of stakeholders to better ascertain needs and goals for the Methow watershed. This would be something I hope to accomplish in the next four years.
Large portions of the county have been damaged by wildfire again this year. What does the county need to do to help with recovery? How about wildfire planning and prevention?
Okanogan County provides short-term disaster relief in all emergencies using its Emergency Management Plan and its Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. Long-term recovery efforts are usually performed by outside entities whose sole purpose is recovery.
Planning for wildfires must be accomplished through the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Through this document, assessments of the wildland-urban interface can help inform land-use decisions in these areas. The county’s continued participation in the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative will help ensure a more well-managed forest to help with fire and overall watershed health.
Is Okanogan County Public Health adequately equipped to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic? What measures does the county need to take to deal with the pandemic? What is the role of the commissioners in pandemic response?
At the beginning of the pandemic, Okanogan County Public Health was understaffed to fully deal with COVID-19. Through CARES Act money, the Okanogan County commissioners allocated over $500,000 to help bolster Public Health’s resources. Currently, this allocation has allowed Public Health to acquire more resources to adequately deal with the pandemic response. As a county commissioner, you are a de facto board member of Public Health; your role is to guide public health and provide support and allocate funding as a commissioner.
What is the state of the economy in Okanogan County? What measures should the county take to address economic issues and promote recovery and future resiliency?
Economic issues in Okanogan County have always been prevalent. We are an agricultural and natural resource-based county with a vastly increasing recreational element. Overall, our economy is highly dependent on businesses within these categories. Smaller businesses that were deemed non-essential during the initial months of COVID suffered the most. Sales tax revenue is actually up countywide over 2019.
In the Methow especially, light industry is difficult given the water issues and, throughout the county, the cost of power and distance to main transportation hubs make enticing new industry difficult. A more concerted focus on trades and small businesses could help promote economic growth and recovery as long as housing issues are addressed for middle-income families.