First elected to the Pacific County Board of Commissioners in 2016, Lisa Olsen is seeking a second term in this November’s general election.
Olsen, running as a Republican, is a lifelong resident of Pacific County, graduating high school from South Bend, where she now lives. Olsen previously served on the South Bend City Council and South Bend School Board of Directors, and worked in the county assessor’s office as an appraiser for more than three decades.
Chinook Observer: What makes you qualified to serve on the Pacific County Board of Commissioners, and what prior experience do you have in community and public service?
Lisa Olsen: In the last four years as your Pacific County Commissioner I have gained valuable experience with the many organizations the county works closely with and forged valuable relationships in many agencies, as well as with other county commissioners across the state. Coupled with the knowledge of the inner workings of the offices and departments that comprise our county government I gained during my 35 years working in the county assessor’s office, I believe I have a unique and valuable blend of experience that a new commissioner would simply be lacking.
CO: What are the two most critical issues facing Pacific County, and how, as just one of three commissioners, do you plan on addressing them if elected?
LO: Six months ago, my answer would have been different, but obviously the most critical issue we face is the continuing covid situation. Although the commissioners have little control over the rules coming from the State, I will continue to work with the State and County Health departments to ensure the medical and financial health of Pacific County is protected. Covid will certainly impact the second issue, the budget. While difficult budget cuts made in 2017, and some unexpected revenues in 2018-2019 have put us in a better position to address the challenges, there may be some difficult decisions yet to be made before this crisis passes.
CO: As we continue to recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic, what county services will you prioritize in the budget during your term, if elected?
LO: If this pandemic continues into 2021 without further funding, we will need to work with our Health Department Director to make hard decisions on how to proceed. The law & justice portion of the budget pie takes up almost 70% of the general fund, and those services are under the supervision of other elected officials who make the decisions on the level of service they can provide after we authorize their budget. All the services the county provides are a priority to someone and therefore important and we do our best to keep them all going.
CO: As of this writing, how do you evaluate the county’s response to the pandemic? Do you support the Washington State Health Department’s mandate requiring masks to be worn when out in public?
LO: The county health department and members of the emergency operations center have worked extremely long and hard hours for months and, I believe, have done a stellar job in these uncharted waters we are all trying to navigate. We have tried very hard to pass on all the necessary information to the public, which was not always easy given how often the same information changed. As most decisions were formulated with the needs of the urban areas of the state in mind, we pushed where we could to make the situation more tolerable for our citizens here in Pacific County.
CO: With sea level rise expected to begin affecting many areas of the county within the next few decades, what role should the commissioners and the county play now in helping to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change in both the near and far future?
LO: I believe the best proactive actions we could make would be to work with the state agencies to ensure our zoning and planning strategies are adequately updated for such situations. The updating and modernization of our planning and zoning codes is one of the priorities high on my list of projects should I be allowed to serve a second term as your county commissioner.
CO: What role can or should the county play when it comes to supporting tsunami response measures, such as the construction of vertical evacuation towers in inundation zones?
LO: The county has been very supportive of the two current projects underway right now in Tokeland and the mid Long Beach Peninsula area. I do think, however, that there should probably be at least one more on the peninsula and we will be investigating funding opportunities as well as being equally supportive of additional projects spearheaded by other interested groups in the county.
CO: How can the commissioners play an active role in supporting economic development and diversifying Pacific County’s economy?
LO: Pacific County’s economy is already fairly diverse and vibrant if we can get the state to support our industries instead of continuing to hamstring them. I have been advocating for our fishing, timber and farming (agri and aqua) communities, and against the aggressive regulations and bad policies coming out of Olympia. Our next biggest industry is tourism. We have a good many businesses that make the bulk of their yearly income within an approximate 6-month window. During the COVID crisis I did my best to try to balance the safety of the community with the survival of these businesses during discussions on how best to proceed.
CO: Simply put, why should the people of Pacific County vote for you in the general election?
LO: Simply put — return on investment. I have worked hard for you these last four years to build knowledge and relationships that will benefit the people and commerce of Pacific County. I am extremely enthusiastic to see many of the projects and issues I have been working on come to productive and successful ends, and to tackle new objectives. The potential for a more positive and productive future for those of us living and working in Pacific County and rural Washington excites me every day and I am not ready to be done working for you.