Kristin Ashley

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Kristin Ashley and Cory Wright are seeking the office of Kittitas County Commissioner District 1. Both are Republicans. They responded to a questionnaire provided by the Daily Record.

Name: Cory Wright

Position Sought: Kittitas County Commissioner, Position 1

Years Resided in Kittitas County: 31 years

What motivated you to seek the office of Kittitas County commissioner?

Kittitas County has been my family’s home for seven generations. After spending 20 years in the private sector working to build stronger companies, I believed it was the right time to put the experience I had gained to work towards building a county government ready for the 21st century.

Balancing a past that has made this area so special with a bright future that ensures our children can live here and raise their own families is not an easy job. This county is certainly not the same as when I was born here in 1973, but it still retains the sense of community that has existed here since its beginning.

Ensuring future success will require hard decisions that haven’t yet been faced in areas such as land use, public safety, and economic development. However, no experience can prepare a candidate for this position quite like the accountability of managing people and delivering on expectations promised. These are not lessons to be learned in office, but rather part of the toolbox I brought on day one.

I am seeking re-election as your County Commissioner because I want to use these tools to build a better home for all our families for generations to come.

How best can the county manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of potential loss of revenue and increase expenses associated with the response to the pandemic?

This pandemic, no matter where you stand on its perceived health risks, has brought significant change in a short period of time. Many businesses were closed and subsequently re-opened but have been subject to state regulatory changes that affect future viability. County leaders need to continue to advocate for measures which sensibly re-open businesses and schools as soon as possible.

Though current county budget figures are positive, holding off capital projects while uncertainty exists around state funding expectations will need to continue. Federal CARES funding has helped, and I have pushed to distribute money to our school districts as well to alleviate additional strain on county taxpayers for reopening costs. As during any down period, there are huge areas of opportunity that exist for those that are willing to act.

Businesses are relocating out of urban centers, and we need to be recruiting those that make sense for our area. With structural changes and investment over the past two years now showing promise at Bowers Field, we stand ready to bring in new employers that want to build.

I believe there is still much to be gained for Kittitas County despite our present reality.

What is the most significant challenge facing the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners over next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

One word: growth. We are seeing the effects right now. Our population has grown by 17% since 2010 — the equivalent of an entire town twice the size of Cle Elum in just nine years. The Board must act now to ensure we can meet demand that continues to swell. Our land use patterns must be modified to ensure we have buildable lots while retaining our rural character.

Understanding market demands and working with historical opponents to growth will develop the framework for this. Simple steps, such as Accessory Dwelling Units, can make a significant difference in housing attainability and supply. Exploring the use of Local Improvement Districts to bring water and sewer to previously unserved areas can open new areas of opportunity that did not exist previously.

We all want to maintain what we have, but simply closing the door will not work. Too many people want to live here now with telecommuting and freeway improvements. If we are to preserve what makes this area unique, embracing this change by recognizing the future potential that comes with it puts our county on the right path. We can do this as we build the future while respecting our past.

Name: Kristin Ashley

Position sought: Kittitas County Commissioner District 1

Years resided in Kittitas County: I grew up here, and then returned in 2013. I plan to live here the rest of my life.

What motivated you to seek the office of Kittitas County commissioner?

I grew up in Kittitas County. I have always been grateful to be an American, and I have learned through extensive travel, exploration, and volunteer work that this County is uniquely wonderful in the world. I plan to build a family here and live here for the rest of my life. This is my home.

My experiences as a combat medic in the Army, volunteering at home and abroad, degrees in Global Wine Studies and Tourism, and dedication to service and my community qualify me to serve Kittitas County as County Commissioner in this challenging season. I am excellent at communicating and dedicated to the success of local farmers and ranchers, managing public lands for locals first, and rapidly establishing higher-wage paying jobs so that our community members can compete for homes and property and have time to participate more fully in local government.

I can help position us for the most successful future for all of us, because I am willing to listen to every community member and truly try to understand your goals and perspectives. Then I can help to strategize and work hard with my team of other county commissioners and county departments to make the best decisions for the brightest future for all of us.

How best can the county manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of potential loss of revenue and increase expenses associated with the response to the pandemic?

Although our county departments have been fiscally responsible, and our county is in relatively good shape financially compared to others, there are a few ways we could position ourselves for the most successful future. County Departments already are reducing spending and discovering different sources of funding. We need to communicate a clear plan going forward, work with the governor to discuss reasonable precautions specific to our county, and support our community members and small businesses that may be struggling.

Communication is essential. We need a clear plan. I would like to reach out to representatives from every industry in our county and the health advisory board to discuss what precautions are reasonable for each industry which will keep employees, customers, families and vulnerable populations safe while simultaneously encouraging financial success for the businesses.

Kittitas County and the residents who live here are unique from other counties. It is important to consider the voices of local people, small business owners, medical professionals, and mental health when creating a plan to face COVID-19 for the future. It should be specific to our county. The primary objectives should be preserving life and quality of life and to support the success of local small businesses.

What is the most significant challenge facing the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners over the next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

The most significant challenges are population growth and resource management. Water resources, public lands, infrastructure, culture, and property values are all affected by people who want to move to our lovely county from the west side of the state. It is important to consider where developments have been approved, increase higher wage paying jobs so that our community members can compete in the housing market, and how to keep the neighborly and safe culture that we enjoy here.

It is important to be inclusive and supportive of the diversity that exists within our community and the diversity that we will continue to see in the next 5-10 years. This will help maintain our culture of being neighbors, caring about each other, and sense of belonging. Conservation of resources relies on an attitude of trust, the ability to use only what we truly need, consideration and generosity, as well as a strong plan which supports generations to come.

Higher wage paying jobs are critical. It is difficult for local first-time home buyers. I will contact industries that pay higher wages and provide benefits so that community members can start building equity.

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