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Ridgefield businessman to challenge Commissioner Mielke

Joe Tanner is also a former state legislator

Published: March 4, 2012, 4:00pm

Ridgefield resident and former state legislator Joe Tanner, who has spent more than two decades out of the public arena working as a corporate executive, said Monday he will run for a seat on the Board of Clark County Commissioners.

Tanner, 65, will challenge Commissioner Tom Mielke, 69, a Republican who will be seeking his second four-year term.

Mielke represents north county; the district reaches as far south as parts of Hazel Dell.

The candidates will run districtwide in the Aug. 7 primary and countywide in the Nov. 6 general election.

If other challengers step forward, the top two will advance from the primary.

Tanner, a Democrat who represented the 18th Legislative District as both as representative and a senator in the 1980s, also served as the first president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

The council formed in 1982 in response to the county’s double-digit unemployment, and Tanner was among a group of people who recruited Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas, Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corp. and other high-tech firms. Tanner was also part of a group that lobbied for Washington State University Vancouver.

Tanner said he decided to challenge Mielke to help lower Clark County’s current double-digit unemployment figures. Economic development will be his No. 1 goal, he said.

“I did it before and I can do it again,” Tanner said Monday.

Filing week is May 14-18.

Commissioner Marc Boldt, a Republican, will also be seeking re-election. A challenger has yet to publicly step forward.

Commissioner Steve Stuart, a Democrat, was re-elected in 2010 to a four-year term.

In 2008, Mielke, also a former state legislator, beat Democrat Pam Brokaw by 209 votes.

Tanner, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat, said challenging Mielke won’t be about partisan issues.

He’s spent the past three months talking to nearly 200 people countywide, and he said they sent a strong message to him that the county needs its commissioners working in a nonpartisan manner.

Tanner said Stuart and Boldt have shown they can work out compromises, but Mielke is too often the odd man out.

“I feel like I can work very well with Steve Stuart and Marc Boldt,” Tanner said. Both are well-respected, he added.

“If north Clark County was represented by a commissioner with equal respect, I wouldn’t be in the race,” Tanner said.

As for re-entering the public spotlight, Tanner said he’s ready for a change, including putting an end to the constant travel that comes with global business.

His most recent business, Texas-based Zeno Corp., was sold a month ago. Tanner was senior vice president and chief operating officer. He’d worked for Zeno since 2004, when he left Three-Five Systems, Inc.

From 1992 to 2000 he was a top executive with Drypers Corp., a diaper manufacturing company with locations in Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Colombia.

From 1989 to 1992 he was a managing partner in a Vancouver business law firm.

Tanner and his wife, Sharyn, have three grown children.

Before going to college, Tanner served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970 as an electronics technician, including 27 months in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University then went on to University of Texas School of Law.

He said he will have a formal campaign kick-off event later this month.

While the county has an administrator, Bill Barron, who oversees day-to-day county government operations, the three commissioners set policy.

Commissioners currently earn $102,228 a year.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or