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Q and A with Dave Hunt, candidate for Clackamas County commission chairman

by: file photo Dave Hunt confers with constituents.

Editor's note: Dave Hunt, having served in the Oregon Legislature since 2003, including stints as the majority leader and house speaker, has set out to run for chairman of the Clackamas County Commission. Hunt sat down recently with Estacada News reporter Jeff Spiegel to answer a few of questions about who he is and about his goals as a county commissioner.

• PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: What brought you to your decision to enter the race for this position? Why leave state government for this position?

HUNT: I am proud of my accomplishments in the Legislature.  Our state has gone through a difficult global recession, but I was able to collaborate with both parties and provide leadership to pass groundbreaking new laws including:  Jobs and Transportation Act, health insurance for all Oregon kids, double majority reform, K-12 and community college capital construction, affordable housing trust fund, 140 new state troopers, Oregon's first-ever Rainy Day Fund, getting our fair share for domestic violence funding, new one-stop shop to help small businesses, require ignition interlocks for DUII offenders, etc., etc.  During my tenure as Majority Leader and House Speaker, we had the most productive (and short!) legislative sessions in decades.

But Clackamas County is at a crossroads.  Our current County Commission is broken.  We need a County Chair who can pro-actively listen to all Clackamas County citizens and then provide strong leadership to get our county back on track, back to work, and moving forward again.

• PMG: If you had to identify one or two ways that you would want to make an impact on Clackamas County in this position, what would those be?

HUNT: Jobs and infrastructure: Our county must be far more focused on helping our current businesses grow and recruiting new businesses to relocate or start up here.  We need to strengthen our road and other infrastructure investments -something that I have effectively done as a legislator.  We need to streamline bureaucracy and cut red tape - something I have effectively done as a legislator.  We need to partner with our cities, CPOs, and private sector businesses - as Washington County has done - to grow our economy and create/sustain jobs.

Human Services and Public Safety:  More successful businesses and more people working will create more revenues that can help better fund effective services for seniors, kids, people with disabilities, and neighborhoods.  Those resources will all help strengthen our communities and make them safer.  The more pro-active and preventive we can be with our investments in critical human services and public safety, the more we will save in the long run.

• PMG: What about in rural Clackamas County, how can you see yourself helping out people in places like Sandy, Eagle Creek and Estacada?

HUNT: It all begins with listening, which is why I made my 'Every City and Every Community, Every Year' pledge to hold town hall meetings throughout all parts of Clackamas County each year, beginning with this year.  I've already held the first three town hall meetings in Oak Grove, Estacada, and Molalla.  Many more are being scheduled.  Regular listening and pro-active citizen involvement will help identity the unique needs of Eagle Creek and Estacada - as well as the common needs that are true in all parts of our county.

One clear need is for greater attention to roads across our county.  Our county has disinvested in our infrastructure for too many years and we must strengthen that infrastructure to better move people and freight throughout our county.

We also need to make sure that we better manage our county forests in a way that maximizes timber-related jobs, maximizes revenues for schools and other critical public services, and does so in a sustainable manner.

• PMG: A lot of people in rural Clackamas County aren't too happy about the newer process for voting on positions like this, where seats aren't given to areas, but simply voted on as a whole. What would you say to people who aren't happy with that, who would like rural areas to have more representation among the commissioners?

HUNT: I agree. We should change our county ordinance to create four separate county commissioner districts to ensure broader geographic representation, while retaining a countywide vote for county chair.  Smaller districts will also make it easier for candidates to run for and serve their district, hopefully encouraging a broader range of Clackamas County citizens to consider running in the future. (Hunt added that if elected this is something he would work to have changed before 2013).

• PMG: Sometimes with county government in areas as big as Clackamas County, some smaller towns tend to feel forgotten. How would you ensure their voices would be heard?

HUNT: Fulfilling my 'Every City and Every Community, Every Year' pledge to hold town hall meetings throughout all parts of Clackamas County each year will help, especially if other commissioners join me for these town hall meetings (which I believe they will). 

I will also regularly pick up the phone and call local business and community leaders to solicit their feedback about important issues, just as I have done in the House.  And my door will also always be open for those who want to share a concern or idea.

• PMG: What makes you the right person for this position?

HUNT: Leadership, experience and vision. We need a county (chairman) who can both listen - and then lead.  We need a county chair who will keep our county focused on economic development and job creation and not get distracted by the political extremes. We need a county chair who is less focused on moving our county left or right - and more focused on moving us forward. My skills and proven experience in both the public and private sectors make me the right fit for Clackamas County Chair.

• PMG: What's something about you that most people don't know, that you're proud of?

HUNT: I'm cheap.  I've never bought a new car, and don't ever plan to buy a new car. Our three cars each have more than 110,000 miles on them. I save and tithe before I spend. That Hunt family frugality has translated into my public service, since I fought for and we passed Oregon's first Rainy Day Fund in 2007 when I was House Majority Leader. We also made it through this last recession without borrowing money to pay for services, unlike the previous recession when long-term borrowing was done to pay for short-term services.  

• PMG: Anything else you want to say to the people of Estacada?

HUNT: Much of my wife's family is from Estacada (her aunt Dona used to own the Fir Valley Tavern and her grandmother was active in the Estacada Community Center), so I understand the feelings that Estacada gets ignored. As county chair, I promise to be a voice for those concerns.