Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Commissioner Finch will seek third term"

This is great news! As most of my regular readers know, I'm a big Jerry Finch fan. He gets my most enthusiastic endorsement for county commssioner. From today's Whitman County Gazette:
Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch of Pullman announced Monday his intention to seek a third term for the District 2 seat on the Board of County Commissioners. Finch has represented the southeast section of Whitman County since 2000.

Finch, 65, said he made the decision to seek re-election after receiving a clean bill of health from his doctor during an annual physical.

“He said I’m in better shape today than I was a year ago,” said Finch. County Commissioner Jerry Finch

Finch touted the economic turn-around of the past two years as one of his proudest accomplishments while in office.

“Where we are now and where we were when Greg (Commissioner Partch) and I came into office is like night and day,” Finch told the Gazette Monday.

When Finch entered office, the county’s budget deficit cut cash reserves deep, sometimes to the point the county could barely meet its payroll. That prompted commissioners to put freezes on hiring and eliminate some positions.

Strengthening the economy so those cuts do not have to be made again is atop his list of priorities for another term, Finch said. He said that is why he has made such efforts to ensure the development of Hawkins’ Companies proposed shopping center at the state line in the Pullman-Moscow Corridor.

That development will strengthen the tax base, he added, and would ensure the county’s budget stays in the black.

“There’s a lot more work to do in the corridor, and I think the responsible thing is to see this through,” he said.

Finch has long championed the shopping center as the spark of an economic firestorm in the county.

He pointed to the county’s rezoning of the corridor as a seminal event in improving the county’s economic development.

The lean-time decisions to limit the size of county government have proven fruitful now, he said, pointing to a cash reserve of more than $3 million.

“Because of those tough decisions we’ve gotten our stuff together,” he said.

At the time, however, those decisions were criticized by county staff, and made the commissioners unpopular in the courthouse.

“The longer you’re a commissioner, the more decisions you make,” he added. “And the more decisions you make the greater the chance you’re going to do something to make someone mad.”

“If you’re not comfortable making tough decisions and angering somebody, you shouldn’t run for this job,” Finch added.

While in office, Finch has seen criticism over several policy decisions and off-the-cuff remarks he has made.

One for which he received the most criticism was the 2005 decision to drop commissioners’ mileage reimbursements in favor of county-owned vehicles. After a great deal of public outcry over that decision, commissioners dropped that plan.

“I was disappointed over the car deal,” he admitted. “But the people made it crystal clear how they felt and we backed off.”

In addition to his policy decisions, Finch has been a controversial figure with his plain-spoken nature.

“What you see is what you get,” he said. “I may be painfully blunt at times, but I’m always honest.”

He attributed much of the controversies to a misinterpretation of his attempts to bring humor, often in sarcastic form, to the daily proceedings of the county commission.

“A lot of times levity can diffuse a tense situation,” he said. “Unfortunately that doesn’t always come through in print.”

Finch lives in Pullman with his wife of 40 years, Donna Lee. The couple raised two daughters and a nephew, and has five grandchildren.

For 35 years he was a partner in his family’s grocery store in Pullman. After closing the store, he became manager of Harrison Distributors in Pullman for four years before the company was sold to Odom Corporate of Seattle.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

Me, too. Jerry could have left us high and dry but he made another four year commitment to see the Hawkins development through. As most people know, I am a life long Whitman County resident. I have seen some pretty questionable commissioners. Our current commissioners are actually serving the people, rather than themselves. It's very refreshing. They deserve a lot of credit when this all is done.