Kari Mattson Flesher is Tillamook County grown and a resident for over 30 years. I attended Neah-Kah-Nie School District graduating as a Valedictorian. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southern Oregon University. I spent a few years away in Southern California and chose to return home. I have been a public servant working for Tillamook County for the last 14 years, served as AFSCME union president for several years, and volunteered on the Bay City Council and Port of Garibaldi Budget Committee. I am dedicated to my job and will do the same as commissioner.
1. What do you consider to be the top 3 most pressing issues facing the county?
The top three issues facing the county is the lack of housing both low income, short-term, and long term housing. This is keeping our job growth flat and employers are having recruitment issues at all wage levels. The next priority is to stabilize the County’s general fund, expenses are outpacing revenue. The third priority is find a long term funding solution to our road department after the expiration the road bond. This was just a bandaid and doing a 2” overlay on our roads alone is a $24 million expense. We need to find a solution that visitors and non-residents share the financial burden.
2. What makes you the best-qualified candidate to address those issues? And what are your solutions to these issues?
I am dedicated, collaborative, and am results driven. I will work with other community leaders and state/federal agencies to find solutions. I would look at the county zoning to identify areas located near transportation hubs for multi-family housing, implement the multi-family and vertical housing tax exemption programs to incentivize private investment. For budget issues, I will work with the state and other county leaders to get the Oregon laws updated to reflect current and future needs possibly to include property taxes, forestry, tourism, lottery and transportation funding.
3. What are the county commission’s current spending priorities? How, if at all, would you change them?
The biggest funding priority currently is keeping expenses down. The road department has $500,000 annually to save for the restoration of the Three Capes Scenic Route over the next three fiscal years to keep the project on track. I also would like to see less money spent on outside legal fees for contract negotiations, this brings down morale and causes uncertainty. I would rather see our County council more involved in legal processes in all departments.
4. How do you assess the overall performance of county staff? How will you ensure they provide the best value for taxpayer money?
Overall I believe the Tillamook County staff completes their jobs effectively, ethically, and provides excellent customer service. I would want to ensure that there is inter-department communication that will allow for more contitunity. If there are issues to be addressed, I would make sure this is communicated quickly and seek a positive solution if at all possible. Majority of county staff have the taxpayers in mind when approaching projects and contract negotiations not padding their pocketbook.
5. How will you approach economic development in the county?
I have worked with the Tillamook County Enterprise Zone for the last 10 years and have had worked with numerous directors of the Economic Development Council over this time. I would ensure that this is a priority and that the EDC promotes this and educates the new and existing businesses of this great incentive that encourages job growth. The zone is up for renewal in 2019. Also there are many other state programs out there and I would bring representatives to the table.
6. Tillamook County is 77 miles long – how are you going to serve the entire county? How will you support/work with other municipalities/cities?
I have lived in all parts of the county from North, Central and South. I have worked in all areas of the county as a property appraiser and understand there are unique qualities in each area. As a public servant it is not my job to prioritize one area over another. I would work with each city and community to ensure that their priorities are known, acknowledged, and possible solutions found. There are some inherent issues that the county may not be able to solve, but I would work with area leaders to find local solutions. These issues include deteriorating local access roads, lack of police coverage, etc. The solution may not be palatable to all and come with it’s own challenges, but by working together and finding common ground I think a solution could be found.