From yesterday's Whitman County Gazette:
Johnson resident Pat O’Neill filed Tuesday to challenge incumbent Jerry Finch for the District 2 seat on the Board of County Commissioners.
A former United Airlines mechanic, O’Neill, 60, calls for more accountability and more transparency from the county’s elected officials. He filed as a Democrat.
He believes the current climate in the courthouse has caused many citizens of Whitman County to lose interest in county governance.
“Citizens will be more involved if the county is more accountable and delivers more to them,” he said.
He proposes night meetings of county commissioners. He added televising those meetings would better involve the county’s citizens.
“We need to accommodate better the working voters of Whitman County,” he said.
O’Neill grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. That experience, he said, would give farmers a better voice in the courthouse.
“I understand how hard it is for farmers to go out there and make a living,” he said. “I want to be a strong advocate in the courthouse for farmers.”
O’Neill also noted the need to address the decaying infrastructure of the county’s smaller towns. He blamed recent trends to limit the size and power of government for not helping small towns remain viable.
“As governments have shrunk, our small towns have paid the cost,” he said. “We need to get back to building America and we have to start right here.”
He noted small towns throughout eastern Washington have experienced the same plight.
That presents an opportunity for rural counties to band together and lobby for more support from Olympia and Washington, D.C.
He compared such a coalition to the recent mergers of Palouse grain co-operatives.
“They didn’t combine to reduce their services,” he said. “They combined for increased purchasing power and to make sure their growers benefit.”
O’Neill currently operates a landscaping business. Prior to that he delivered fertilizer for the Colfax Grange Supply, and worked 35 years as an aircraft mechanic for United Airlines.
He added he lost his pension when the airline filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2005.
O’Neill and his wife Connie have been married for 38 years. The couple has three grown children.