It may not be obvious on the surface, but an intense political battle is going on in Washington County.

In less than three weeks, voters will decide whether incumbent Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck — who has served on the Board of Commissioners since 1995, the last four years as chairman — or his challenger, longtime Intel employee Allen Amabisca, will take charge for the next four HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck (right) and challenger Allen Amabisca talk about the issues at a recent candidates forum in Hillsboro.

Not surprisingly, both men see the election as critical to the future of the county.

“Overall, I see the county as being on a pretty good path and I want to keep it that way,” said Duyck in an interview at a Cornelius Starbucks last week. “My platform is, ‘stay the direction.’ Yes we have some problems, but things are working right with our economic development policies. We have a model of government that is fiscally conservative and tries to solve problems and not just be political.”

Duyck was born in Hillsboro. He grew up on his family’s farm near Hillsboro and has lived in the county his entire life.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth, and a lot of change,” he said. “But change is not always bad.”

Amabisca said his reason for running, and the direction he intends to focus on, is simple.

“The priorities I’m looking at [are], focus on community and focus on families,” Amabisca said while relaxing over coffee at the Beaverton Sub Station in downtown Beaverton last week. “We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing for citizens here, and focus on public safety, kids, community services and being a good steward of our tax dollars. We need to get back to basics.”

As with Duyck, Amabisca also grew up on a family farm, just down the Willamette Valley in Lebanon. He served four years in the Air Force (1965-69), graduated from San Jose State University with degrees in finance and botany and moved to Hillsboro with his wife, Cherry, in 1987. In 1992, Amabisca landed an accounting job with Intel and began a career with the high-tech company that spanned more than two decades.

“At the very end, I was the global programs manager,” Amabisca said, a position in which he oversaw a budget in the billions of dollars.

In early 2013, after a 21-year career with Intel, Amabisca decided it was time for retirement.

“Last November, I was wrapping up my work with Intel, and folks came to me and asked if I would consider running for county chair,” Amabisca said. “I thought long and hard about it.”

Amabisca, who lives on an eight-acre farm in Helvetia, said he has been concerned about the direction of the county and what he sees as skewed priorities. He’s worried about increasing traffic and the urbanization of productive farmlands, and he would like to see more funding for schools. So when he found out Duyck would probably be running unopposed if he didn’t launch a challenge, he came to a decision.

“I have to do this,” he realized. “Literally in December (2013) I was making this decision.”

Not personal

Amabisca said his decision to run against Duyck has nothing to do with personal issues.

“My opposition is policy. It’s a difference of opinion; it doesn’t need to be personal,” he said. “I want to bring fresh eyes to what is going on in Washington County.”

However, Amabisca did take a sideways shot at Duyck regarding his campaign contributions.

“My contributions are coming from individuals impacted by county policy or inactions of policy, while my opponent gets donations from those who benefit from those policies,” Amabisca said. “I’m connecting with people who want change.”

Duyck, however, said he believes the campaign has turned personal. He said he has seen a “smear campaign” against himself as well as against County Commissioner Bob Terry, a political ally of Duyck’s.

“There is a smear website that has taken every issue and twisted it, even huge success stories,” Duyck said. “You won’t see that on our side; I’d be ashamed. If I lose, I want to be able to hold my head up high. They are bringing Washington, D.C., politics to Washington County. It’s a scorched-earth policy, instead of winning on issues or platform.”

Amabisca said he is focused on policy issues and fresh priorities. For instance, he intends to make sidewalks near schools a priority if he becomes chairman.

“There are 10 schools in the county where there are no sidewalks, and kids are walking on the side of the road or in ditches next to the roads because they don’t feel comfortable walking in the street,” he said. “We need to focus more on that.”

Duyck said the county has been working on sidewalks and intends to keep at it.

“We’re continuing the policy of completing sidewalk infills,” Duyck said. “We’ve been doing this for four years. We’ve never spent more on (routes for) bikes and pedestrians. These are livability issues and safety issues.”

Transit talk

While generally agreeing on the importance of enhancing the region’s mass transit systems, the two differ on how to approach the issue.

“The board is 100 percent supportive of mass transit,” said Duyck.

He added that he believes the recent vote by Tigard residents to require a local vote before any light rail or express bus system can be built is not a beneficial approach.

“Because these projects have to be planned on a countywide and region-wide basis, to have any single jurisdiction have veto power makes it impossible to plan,” Duyck said.

Amabisca said he would take a fresh approach to transit planning.

“My take is a little bit different,” he explained. “I’m sensing a general distrust of government. We need [have] open dialogue with citizens, and we can’t be rigid. These may be great ideas and projects, but the way they are handled is causing citizens to be upset and feel they are being forced, so you get some backlash. We need to get good citizen input in the initial planning.”

Amabisca said increasing opportunities for citizen participation is one of the foundations of his campaign.

“My dad taught me to listen to and respect other people’s opinions. That’s how you learn,” Amabisca said. “You might think you know the right path, but do you really have all the key facts?”

Bees and hay

Duyck owns 50 acres in the Verboort area. While he personally does not work all 50 acres, he does stay active raising beef and growing hay. He’s also a longtime beekeeper.

“I’ve raised bees since I was a teenager,” he said.

Duyck’s main business is Duyck Machine, Inc., a machine shop just north of Forest Grove in Verboort that makes custom parts and employs 20 workers. Duyck founded the business in 1983 after completing a degree in machine technologies at Portland Community College.

With all this going on, it’s no surprise that one of Duyck’s side projects is taking longer than usual. Duyck is building an airplane, and it’s no model. He’s working on an experimental, single-engine, two-seat aircraft.

“I’m a pilot,” Duyck said. “I’ve been building it for 12 years. It was supposed to take five years, but it’s coming along very slowly because I don’t have that much time to work on it.”

Travel in eastern Oregon

Amabisca and Duyck both said they have an affinity for eastern Oregon when they find time to get away.

“What little time high-tech gave me, for relaxation I like to go hiking in eastern Oregon between Burns and John Day,” Amabisca said. “There are remarkable ponderosa pine forests in the Blue Mountains.”

Duyck said he likes to hunt grouse and chukar in eastern Oregon.

“And I like trout fishing,” he added. “The rest of my family is into salmon and steelhead, but I like trout.”

Both men express confidence the voters will lean toward their point of view on who would be better for Washington County over the next four years. But if the tide goes against them, they appear ready to transition to another direction.

“Life goes on,” said Duyck. “This job really doesn’t belong to me, and I’ve never considered it belonging to me. When I’m no longer needed at the county, I’ll go back to what I enjoy most — running my business, and maybe traveling.”

“I assume I’m going to be successful, because I’m doing 14-hour days, seven days a week,” Amabisca said. “But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll go back to my original goal of working for nonprofits, and I’ll be working with the same people I’m working with now on conservation issues, improving school systems, enhancing in-school and after-school programs and looking at getting more parks.

“These would be the same issues I’d be looking at as chairman, just from a different position.”

Win or lose, Duyck is proud of his record and the reputation he feels the board of commissioners enjoys.

“What’s unique about our county is how we work together,” Duyck said. “Our county is not fighting; we work together on issues. Our county has not gone to extremes of right and left, and the stability of our county brings in business. Our county has been extremely successful, and others who want to move here recognize that. Growth is a byproduct of our success.”

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