Clark County Commissioner: Tanner, Barca

High-quality candidates emerge in race for county commissioner

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Joe Tanner and Ron Barca know a lot about Clark County. Tanner served in the Legislature during the 1980s and was the first director of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. Barca has served 13 years on the Clark County Planning Commission and understands key issues such as growth management and agriculture.They're both driven to public service for the best reason: to make a great community even better.

That's why The Columbian endorses Tanner and Barca as the top two candidates for Clark County commissioner, District 1, in the Aug. 7 primary. This district includes north county and parts of Orchards and Hazel Dell. County commissioner candidates run districtwide in the primary, then countywide in the general election. The Columbian will narrow its recommendation to a single candidate in the Nov. 6 election.

Barca and Tanner are our recommendations in a five-man field that includes incumbent Republican Tom Mielke, who has made few meaningful contributions to the policymaking board and shown a troubling lack of understanding on key issues. Among the negatives working against the incumbent is the fact that Mielke this year failed to pay his property taxes on time … for the second straight year. "I can't believe it," he told a reporter. If you're looking for a "No!" guy, Mielke's your man. And, although being conservative in tough economic times usually is an attribute, Mielke provides obstructionism almost mindlessly.

Other candidates in this race include Bob Freund, an independent who grew disenchanted with the local Republican party, and Darren Wertz, who has yet to mount a serious campaign.

By contrast, Tanner and Barca are all-in when it comes to crucial campaign responsibilities such as public appearances, enlisting supporters and clearly delineating their views on key issues.

Tanner, a Ridgefield Democrat, is well-known for numerous contributions to the community a decade or two ago, and then an admirable record as a leader in the business world. As a legislator, he was among many local officials who helped guide Washington State University Vancouver from dream to reality. As an economic developer, he helped recruit several high-tech firms to Clark County. And as a businessman, Tanner has directed several successful companies to global significance, retiring recently from a grueling pace that over the years included 4 million travel miles to 65 countries.

All of this sets up Tanner as well-qualified for his top campaign issue: jobs. His five-point plan for the county includes a job-friendly government, infrastructure enhancements, resolving the county's disagreement with the state over stormwater regulations, enhancing rural businesses and accelerating growth among established businesses.

Barca, too, focuses on job creation, with special attention to promoting agricultural businesses. The Battle Ground Democrat warns against additional regulations or restrictions on uses of agricultural lands. He advocates preserving small businesses, especially on rural lands. Barca works as a lean practitioner at Boeing Commercial Aircraft in Gresham, Ore. His decade-plus experience on the planning commission helps qualify him for service on the board of county commissioners.

Tanner is anti-casino, Barca says it's a federal -- and not a county -- decision. Both are mildly supportive of the Columbia River Crossing, with concerns about oversight and lingering disputes between various agencies.

District 1 has two well-qualified and properly motivated candidates -- Joe Tanner and Ron Barca -- for county commissioner, District 1.