Bipartisan group forms to promote local interests


A group of Wahkiakum County residents plans to form the Wahkiakum Resource Action Plan workgroup by the end of May, group member Ron Wright said Tuesday.

The group includes leaders of the county's Democrat and Republican parties. They came together earlier this year to host a listening tour program to hear issues and concerns from county residents and organizations.

The group's purpose, Wright said, is to join with other rural counties across the state to identify and promote common issues that seem to get lost in state government which is dominated by urban and suburban regions.

On Tuesday, the county board of commissioners gave their support for the group.

Wright said the message received in the earlier forums is that county residents have lost control of local resources and that they would like to regain that control.

The action plan states, "Our vision is a three-year nonpartisan action plan which supports projects underway and develops additional ideas that will thrive in our county without drastically changing our culture."

As a guiding thought, the plan states, "The two main functions of this project are 1) to collect and share information about ongoing projects, and 2) to support groups developing new projects. Our ‘top level' indicators are fish, timber, farming, land-use access, eco-targeted tourism activities, hi-tech small business, and local property ownership."

County commissioners recommended the group elect a chair from their participants, which, they hope, will include representatives from local government, the Chamber of Commerce, school districts, state resource agencies, political parties and the Cowlitz Tribe and the Columbia Land Trust.

"Try to put something together with neutral color," Commissioner Mike Backman counseled Tuesday. "Take an impartial position on this so we can reach out to other areas of the state to amplify our voice."

"This is not a Republican or Democrat thing," Wright replied. "They see this as a whole scheme of common interests."

Strong said that in his previous tenure as county sheriff, he and sheriffs from other rural counties banded together to promote their interests, which were alien to officials from populated areas.

"This is the right approach, bringing the small counties together so they can be heard in Olympia," he said.

Backman will be the county commission's liaison to the workgroup.


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