Shauna Beeman is challenging incumbent Chris Branch.
Please provide information about your background.
I am a lifelong resident of Okanogan County. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Loomis and I graduated from high school in Tonasket. I attended college in Spokane where I obtained my AA degree. I have owned and operated a fencing company for 20-plus years in the county. I am also a cattle rancher and a certified egg dealer. I am married and have raised two kids. I have always felt it was important to give back to my community. I have hosted a charity golf tournament raising thousands for women to receive free mammograms. I served as a rodeo representative for Tonasket, Omak Stampede and Washington state and then came back to sit on those boards. During the Carlton Complex Fire I sat on the Omak Okanogan Long Term Recovery board as well as distributing thousands of tons of hay and animal feed. Since the recent fire I have assisted in obtaining many loads of hay for hungry animals.
How would you describe your political views?
My political views align with the Republican Party. I have old-fashioned core value(s) such as limited government regulation, personal responsibility and following the rule of law. I was raised to value a handshake and consider it as someone’s word. Honesty and integrity are important to me.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Okanogan County Commission and what background and skills make you the best choice for the position?
I plan to prioritize the people of Okanogan County and hope to promote both economic and personal growth. I believe my rural upbringing will help me be an understanding voice for those facing unemployment, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, and drug abuse. Promoting jobs in the agricultural and natural resource industries remains one of my priorities.
What do you consider to be the top three issues facing Okanogan County? Why? What should the county do to address these issues?
In no particular order: 1) Lack of living wage jobs. We need to reach out to companies and businesses and attract them to develop in our county while still being mindful of and protecting our heritage and natural resources. 2) Drug abuse and homelessness. We need to strengthen our ability to help those with addictions and mental health issues by developing more accessible and affordable programs using a more long-term approach. 3) Fire and COVID recovery. We need to begin by addressing how and what support our businesses need to remain viable while recovering from shutdowns. Long-term support for county residents is going to be needed for those affected by the fires.
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?
Currently, the county is not up to date with its new land-use planning and tracking. It is using old zoning regulations. The Methow has many of the same concerns as the entire county. What affects one town generally affects other towns and communities. Okanogan County is very diverse in its communities, crops and environment. We need to get a new Comprehensive Resource Plan that clearly addresses land and water usage throughout our entire county. The plan needs to be short. Since it is a statement of principles it need not be thousands of pages nor does it need to be full of burdening regulations. For the Methow, the plan would need to allow flexibility in how the water is allocated and allow it to be moved to meet the needs as they arise.
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?
Land-use planning impacts our daily lives in the Okanogan Valley, what our towns look like and the success of our economy hinges on the future of water availability. It is possible that the lack of available new water rights will greatly inhibit the growth of irrigable agricultural land. Long term, we must protect the non-irrigable land (privately or state-owned) because it is the foundation for wildlife, timber, mining and grazing. The Methow River contains critical habitat for endangered wild steelhead, spring Chinook and bull trout. The watershed basins must be protected by keeping our stream levels at a volume that allows for critical fish habitats.
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?
People wishing to subdivide land in order to build new homes in the Methow Valley are caught in a bad situation. Futurewise has filed a lawsuit having to do with single wells and group wells. The withdrawal of water is restricted from basins that are considered to be maxed out. This restriction limits growth in order to protect instream flows. The county needs to formulate a plan that protects the natural resources that are at stake. Working with the Department of Ecology, they need to establish that the Methow water withdrawals are nowhere near capacity and clarify the description of single home domestic wells.
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?
Initially, we need to get those folks who have been displaced by the fire into affordable housing while working with long-term recovery groups to get their homes rebuilt. For our ranching communities, we need to assist them with livestock containment and feed. Long term, we will need to monitor and assess their needs after insurance and other programs such as FSA and NRCS have been implemented. For our wildlife, I feel we need to do a reseeding and planting process to speed up forage production for them. We need to quickly repair any drainages and stream banks by replanting to help avoid erosion and protect the water quality. I feel that the county needs a permanent disaster resource center, a place where people can access all disaster resources in one permanent location.
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 ongoing pandemic? What do you see as the role of the commissioners in pandemic response?
No, I do not feel that they were adequately equipped. I feel that the commissioners should have taken a stronger leadership role in how the county dealt with the rules and regulations that the governor said needed to be implemented. The county needs to work to keep businesses open while still protecting the health of our residents.
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?
The state of the economy is currently OK. Going forward, however, is going to require everyone to be very mindful of how we spend our dollars to assure economic stability. The pandemic has affected sales tax revenues and the fire will affect property values and taxes. All county entities will need to adhere to strict budgets and make cuts where they can. The county will no doubt need to work closely with the Economic Alliance, the long-term recovery groups and Tribal Council to maximize opportunities to strengthen and rebuild. Pooling all of our resources and cooperatively working together will facilitate a much faster recovery and give us a more resilient future. Reaching out to new businesses will also help our county to grow, recover and secure financial viability. Supporting current businesses while working to bring in new businesses would create jobs while increasing and expanding revenue sources for our communities.