Joe Henderson said Whitman County residents proved they don’t want county government telling them how they can use their landwhen they packed the county meeting room in Colfax two months ago to oppose proposed zoning laws.
Henderson, a retired businessman who lives outside of Colfax, said the county will probably finalize the new laws before a new county commissioner takes office in January.
Still, Henderson said, the new commissioner should understand that government should support the people, not restrict them.
Voters will soon choose between District 3 commission candidates Michael Largent, 47, a Republican, and Democrat Nathan Weller, 24. Largent and Weller will take part in a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Pullman Wednesday night at 7:30 at Pullman City Hall.
Both are lifelong county residents and both consider their ages to be their strengths.
Weller said he spends much of his free time researching potential solutions to the county’s economic and development hurdles. He said his youthful energy and drive to help the county help him stay up until 4 a.m., learning what other counties have done to thrive.
“It’s really exciting to see what other counties have done and continue to do,” Weller said. “I have come up with a lot of great ideas.”
Largent commends Weller for his energy and ideas, but said he needs to look at the feasibility of his plans and consider what Whitman County already has done.
Weller wants to label the county as an economic growth area and provide incentives for businesses to locate here.
Largent said the county, through the Palouse Economic Development Council, already has its doors wide open to anyone who wants to move or start a business.
Largent said his experience in the county and understanding of how its residents think are his strongest assets.
The people of Whitman County are intuitive and will alter their business model to adjust to a changing marketplace if given the opportunity, he said. It’s the county commissioner’s job to listen to the constituency and help determine the way they want to go.
“We need laws,” Largent said. “However, I think telling people what color they can paint their house is a little too much.”
Weller wants to include state and federal government in county decisions concerning growth and economic structuring. He said there are plenty of state and federal resources to tap into.
Both candidates are concerned that Pullman is experiencing the greatest amount of growth. They want to bolster the relationship between Pullman and the rest of the county, include surrounding communities in new development and economic development, expand the county’s economic base through biofuels and high-tech industries, and work regionally to preserve the area’s water supply and protect the environment.
“I’ve got solutions, not slogans,” Weller said. “I want to push biofuels. But besides that, there are a lot of great opportunities out there. I am very excited at what we can do.”
Largent said county commissioners must think of their constituency first and consult them before making a decision.
He said that could be as unofficial as heading down to the county’s coffee shops, or holding a public hearing.
Henderson said whoever is elected must appreciate the independent nature of Whitman County’s residents.
“Farmers are good stewards of the land and getting better,” Henderson said. “We don’t want any of the commissioners stepping on our toes, and we do appreciate when they hold public hearings and let us talk.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: League of Women Voters of Pullman candidate forum. Residents can ask candidates their views on issues.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Council chambers, Pullman City Hall. I don't know Joe Henderson, but I suspect he'll be voting for Michael Largent, just like me. Being independent does not involve including "state and federal government in county decisions concerning growth and economic structuring."