As the economy sank during the past four years, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy cut the number of county employees by more than 13 percent, shielded public safety from the budget ax and streamlined operations at the county’s permitting department.
McCarthy, a Democrat, said she’s done a good job and wants to lead the county for a second four-year term. She defended how her office spends its budget and said Planning and Land Services is “a great example of a turnaround” in customer focus.
Bruce Minker, president of the Pierce County Corrections Deputies Guild, said he’s a better choice.
“I can do a better job,” said Minker, who’s running without a party preference. “I want to stop the waste of your tax dollars.”
Minker said the executive’s office, Planning and Land Services, and the Sheriff’s Department can be run more efficiently.
Most of his comments are directed at the Sheriff’s Department, run by Sheriff Paul Pastor. Minker is part of that department; he’s worked as a corrections deputy at the Pierce County Jail since 1984.
Minker said the county’s refusal to settle during labor negotiations caused him and his fellow deputies to go a year and a half without a contract. That’s part of the reason he’s running for executive, he said.
Minker faces a steep climb to unseat McCarthy. In the two-candidate dry run in the August primary, McCarthy finished far ahead of Minker with 64 percent of the votes cast to his 36 percent.
Absent from this year’s ballot is a Republican candidate for county executive. Andrea Innes, the state GOP committee woman for Pierce County, said her party isn’t running a challenger to unseat McCarthy because qualified individuals – such as County Council members Dick Muri and Stan Flemming – sought other positions.
“People who were of the stature to run for that chose to run for other offices,” said Innes, who managed the campaign of Republican Shawn Bunney for county executive in 2008. Bunney – then a County Council member – finished runner-up to McCarthy.
Innes said Republican Party officials talked with Muri and Flemming about running against McCarthy. But both ran in the August primary for the state’s new 10th Congressional District, with Muri advancing.
Running for county executive is “too big an undertaking just to put a name on the ballot,” Innes said. “We had to let it go. … We certainly wanted a candidate.”
The county executive receives an annual salary of $179,336, making it one of the highest-paid elected positions in the region.
McCarthy has raised nearly $85,000 for her campaign. Minker said he’s raised $5,000 – including $4,000 he borrowed from himself.
PROUD OF HER WORK
During a time of economic recession and falling revenues, McCarthy said she’s focused on “internally resetting county government so that we are in line with the resources that are provided to us by the citizens.”
“I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done in regard to that,” McCarthy said. “We’re maximizing the use of the tax dollars we have.”
She named other accomplishments, including leading a coalition to develop South Sound 911. Last November, voters approved raising the sales tax by a penny on every $10 purchased to help build a combined, upgraded radio system for sheriff’s deputies and other emergency responders and two new dispatch centers.
McCarthy also helped lead the charge to establish a countywide taxing district for projects to protect against catastrophic flooding along the Puyallup, Nisqually, White and Carbon rivers.
Looking forward, McCarthy cited her efforts planning for the 2015 U.S. Open at the county’s Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place. That event will bring significant economic benefit to Pierce County and the region, McCarthy said.
She also points to her work on boards for regional agencies, dealing in part with road improvement projects for Pierce County.
FOCUS ON SPENDING
Minker is critical of how the county is spending taxpayers’ money. “I’m the party for the taxpayer,” he said.
He said he wants to make Planning and Land Services “more user-friendly” and spend money for public safety more wisely.
Minker said he knows from his 28 years working for the county how money can be better managed.
Taxpayers’ money “has not been respected the way it should be,” Minker said. “I will do better with your money than has gone on over the last 20 years.”
Minker said reducing waiting times to get booked at the Pierce County Jail would increase efficiency. So would having law enforcement deputies work five eight-hour shifts instead of four 10-hour shifts, he said.
Minker said he wouldn’t cut public safety but would reduce administrative overhead in other departments.
For the 2013 budget, McCarthy has proposed cutting nine corrections positions – likely from vacancies – and 14 law enforcement openings.
Minker said his union was disrespected by the county in labor negotiations that led to 18 months without a contract.
McCarthy said corrections deputies bore responsibility for that delay because they insisted on waiting until arbitration was completed with law enforcement deputies.
Pierce County executive
Education: Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary arts and sciences, University of Washington Tacoma.
Occupation: Pierce County executive.
Civic experience: Pierce County auditor, 2003-08, and deputy Pierce County auditor, 1999-2002. Chair of the Sound Transit Board and the South Sound 911 Policy Board. Member of numerous other boards, including the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Council, Pierce Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council. Tacoma Public Schools Board director from 1987-99.
Total raised/spent: $84,979.62/$57,818.97
Top five donors: Citizens for a Better Government, $900; Pierce County Affordable Housing Council, $900; Active in Democracy, $800; Scott Nelson, $800; and Pierce County Democrats, $800.
Education: Rainier High School, Rainier. Attended South Puget Sound Community College; became a journeyman carpenter. Graduate, Washington State Corrections Academy.
Occupation: Corrections deputy, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, since 1984.
Civic experience: President of the Pierce County Corrections Deputies Guild since November 2010. Does volunteer home repair for retirees in Yelm and Rainier; has been a youth football referee in the Tacoma area.
Total raised/spent: $5,000/$4,000.
Top five donors: Bruce Minker, $4,000 loan; Paul Minker, $500; Angela and Darrell Minker, $400; Roger Pederson, $100.Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @TNTstevemaynard