Grays Harbor County Commissioner Frank Gordon is asking voters for another four years to serve District 2, which includes Aberdeen and Westport.
Prior to serving as a county commissioner, Gordon was an electrician for more than 40 years. Before owning his electrical business, Gordon owned the Phillips 66 gas station in South Aberdeen. His education includes some college courses at Grays Harbor College and Lower Columbia College, and trade school while he was serving in the Air Force.
Gordon served on the Aberdeen City Council beginning in 2009 (appointed to the city’s finance committee) until he was elected as a county commissioner in 2012.
“I am one of you. I’m just a blue-collar guy, a former business owner, a councilman and a commissioner. I know your needs because I live them just like you do, every single day,” Gordon said.
The biggest issue facing county government, Commissioner Gordon said, is the current budget shortfall. The county is negotiating union contracts and the county Assessor’s Office has not provided preliminary numbers necessary to complete a budget picture for 2017, but the commissioners are working toward creating a general fund budget and the requested expenditures exceed expected revenue.
Gordon says the cure is at the state level.
“The current budget shortfall is not completely curable until the property tax levy limit of 1 percent is changed,” Gordon said. “We can stay within our budget, but every year we’re going to have to get littler, and littler, and littler — in a long enough period of time, we would be almost nonexistent.”
At 1 percent, the property tax levy limit doesn’t allow for the county keep up with inflation, Gordon says.
“It’s starving us. It’s like you need $10 a day to eat and live, but we’re only going to give you $9,” he said. “You can live off of body fat and stuff for a while, but what happens after a bit is you just go away. And that’s what’s happening to the county.”
Additionally, Gordon says the other big problem facing the county is mental health funding — another issue that’s controlled mostly at the state level.
“A large number of our homeless on the streets would be assisted if we had proper mental health services,” Gordon said. “They say, ‘Well, they’re druggies …’ but a lot of those people are druggies because they have a mental health problem and they’re using the drugs to treat themselves.”
When a person with mental health issues is booked into jail, the capacity of the cell differs from that of other offenders, Gordon says. So as the jail system deals with people suffering from mental health issues, the jail has to turn away other offenders because it has fewer beds.
“We’ve had weekends where we’ve had a dozen people with mental health issues in the jail — so you’ve gotten rid of 48 beds for 12 people,” Gordon said. “We need more mental help down here, and we need more treatments here, not have them go someplace else.”
Gordon says his time as a commissioner and the relationships he’s fostered with state-level elected officials will allow him to help begin the process of solving the biggest issues facing the county.
“It takes time to develop these relationships,” Gordon says. “And my relationships aren’t locked just to Democrats. I’m lucky to have some relationships like that in Olympia with Republicans also.”
Crude oil being transported by rail through Grays Harbor County, as well as proposed plans to store the crude at the Port of Grays Harbor and ship it from there have long been a subject of contention through the county and the state. Gordon has brought the discussion into the race for county commissioner with signs expressly stating his opposition to crude by rail and his opponent’s alleged support (his opponent has not expressly stated support for crude by rail projects to The Vidette, instead saying it is a state issue).
During the interview with The Vidette, Gordon said he would use his relationships with state leaders to oppose crude by rail.
“Right now I’m an authority figure for Grays Harbor County — they’re (state officials) going to listen to me more than they would a Joe Blow,” Gordon said.
Gordon added that if he isn’t re-elected, he would not stop opposing crude by rail and crude oil storage in Grays Harbor County.
“I’d liked to be re-elected to carry the fight on, but if I’m not re-elected, I’ll still carry the fight on,” Gordon said. “To preserve what we have here, it’s worth fighting for.”
Despite communication issues throughout 2015 with Gordon and the other commissioners engaging in very public disagreements, Gordon said he and the other commissioners now communicate well.
Last month, Gordon was accused of tampering with his challenger’s signs — an accusation Gordon denies. Gordon says he saw the signs down and moved them so his challenger could find the signs and put them back up.
“I should not have picked up the sign — I did not pull it. I was not trying to hide that. It was in the middle of the day, with me wearing a suit — I didn’t have my ninja outfit on, I wasn’t sneaking around,” he said. Gordon said he noticed some impact to his campaign initially, but that support has leveled again. “Maybe in the first week or so, yes. (But) most of those people have come back after sitting, looking and thinking.”
Gordon’s own trailer with campaign signs later was stolen near Safeway in Aberdeen. Gordon said he was told it may have been stolen for scrap metal.
In the end, what Gordon does, he says he does for the good of the county.
“I love Grays Harbor County with all my heart. I’m not from here — I’ve been here 50 years. I came here planning to stay for two weeks and I’m still here,” Gordon said. “We are a hard-scrabble county, but when chips are down, everybody stands together, and that makes this a really special county.”