County Commissioner Wes Cormier remembers Herb Welch

Former Grays Harbor County Commissioner Herb Welch is being remembered for his ability to remain good-humored as he dealt with serious health issues.

Welch, 79, who died Friday, served on the commission from 2011 to 2015 as the third district representative, fulfilling his duties despite health challenges that included cancer and heart problems.

Commissioner Wes Cormier was elected in 2013 and served alongside Welch for two years. A sign sits on Cormier’s office desk that was a gift from Welch.

“It says ‘A third of the buck stops here,’” he explained. “Herb was a fiscal conservative. He took fiduciary responsibilities very seriously.”

In 2013, Cormier and Welch composed the first Republican majority on the county commission since the 1930s.

Welch became the first Republican to win a county commissioner seat in many years by narrowly defeated incumbent Commissioner Al Carter by just 71 votes. It took a machine recount to verify the result of the election because the results were so close.

Cormier said Welch worked diligently on a settlement to the lawsuit filed against the county by its Superior Court judges. The action stemmed from budget cuts made by the commissioners in 2011 and 2012 affecting court operations and security in the Courthouse.

Restoring funds cut and modifying plans for a third courtroom were parts of the settlement agreement.

Welch was also interested in seeing E-Verify used by the county to check on the employment and immigration status against a national database as well. It was adopted by the commission in late 2014, but dropped a couple of months later, after Welch left office. The commission in 2015 was one in which Cormier was the lone Republican, he pointed out.

Welch needed to take time off from the county to receive care for a heart problem in 2013 and, afterward, decided he didn’t want to run for a second term in office. His successor is Commissioner Vickie Raines, who considers herself non-partisan.

“It was a pleasure to work with Herb. He conducted the meetings in a light-hearted and easy-going way,” Cormier said.

He also remembered how much fun he had with Welch during a Republican Party banquet awhile back.

“We did a Jeff Foxworthy-type, ‘You might be a Democrat if …’ routine together,” he remembered. “We had a great time.”