It’s about the numbers for Randy Ross.
Ross, a vice president of the Bank of the Pacific and a commercial banker, is challenging Grays Harbor County District 2 Commissioner Frank Gordon in November’s general election.
He has been professionally involved in commercial banking, insurance and finance since 1976. He attended Whitworth College, Washington State University and Eastern Washington University. Ross, who expressed no party preference when he filed for office, started out as a political science major, then changed his major to special education, and finally was aiming for a business degree before “life got in the way” of his graduation.
Now running for county commissioner, Ross says the two biggest issues facing Grays Harbor County are growing the tax base and the county budget.
The issues facing the county are a conflict that’s statewide, Ross says. “It’s urban vs. rural in the state of Washington.”
“We have policies that are pushed onto rural areas by voting centers in our state — King, Pierce and Snohomish counties,” he said.
Ross noted that the PUD purchasing clean power makes sense in a large metropolitan area, but it’s economically damaging to areas like Grays Harbor County. The same could be said for some of the efforts to increase the minimum wage, he explained.
“Raising the minimum wage might be perfectly viable for large metropolitan areas where you can’t survive on the current minimum wage, but rural Washington has a different economy and minimum wage was never meant to be a family wage — it was meant to be a training wage,” Ross said.
The way to grow the tax base, Ross says, is through lobbying at the state and federal level for programs that create business incentives in rural Washington.
“Those could be Business and Occupation (B&O) tax incentives, sales tax incentives, they could be grants given through the Department of Commerce and Trade and distributed through the county system. It could be an increase in .09 funds (for economically distressed counties) that can provide needed funds to private and public infrastructure projects,” Ross said.
Ross says he already has connections to legislators.
“I developed relationships through my time at Greater Grays Harbor Inc., as well as the chamber, and I served as a chairman on the former economic council, and when that merged into Greater Grays Harbor, I was a co-chair for the first year. I later went to serve on the executive board where I continue to serve, and I was a member of the chamber’s board,” Ross said. “And through the chamber’s legislative government affairs committee, I have been up to Olympia several times. Good working relationships with our congressmen and senators are essential.”
How Ross plans to address the county’s budget concerns remains uncertain. Without knowing if current negotiations for union contracts will bring increased salary expenditures to the county, and without preliminary valuations from the county Assessor’s Office, Ross, like the sitting commissioners, is without a full picture of what the true financial situation is for the county.
But he points to his professional experience as something that will help. “My full-time job is reading tax returns and financial statements and doing credit analysis. I’m used to working at numbers, and working through numbers and finding why something doesn’t make sense,” Ross said.
Throughout 2015, the county commissioners had several high-profile arguments. The Vidette asked Ross how he would handle communication with his fellow commissioners and how he planned to work with them.
“I would be respectful of other commissioners and their district, not try to step on their toes and get in their way, but if there’s a problem bring it to their attention first,” Ross said. “If another commissioner is not handling their issues, then it’s time to step up, but the respectful thing to do is to make sure the other commissioner for that district is aware of the problem and has the first chance to address it.”
Incumbent Commissioner Frank Gordon recently has campaigned on a platform of opposing a project that would ship crude oil by rail through Grays Harbor County, and ultimately the crude oil would be stored at and shipped from the Port of Grays Harbor. Gordon has accused Ross of supporting crude by rail. Ross did not state his support for crude by rail to The Vidette.
“It’s silly to ship crude oil all the way across the United States when they could refine it right where it’s at,” Ross said.
But Ross also noted that the issue was not a county issue.
“A county commissioner has no control, decision or effect over the federal railway authority,” Ross said. “Our taxpayers and local companies have invested millions of dollars into Port infrastructure and we have a world-class port here. … The focus should be on, ‘Does this create good, family-wage jobs, and can it be done safely?’”
Ross said there is a legal process that the permit should go through, and that’s what is happening.
Commissioner Gordon in a candidate story talked at length about homelessness and mental health issues. Ross said his plan would be to create an immediate plan to take action toward resolving homelessness and mental health issues.
“We need to have a 90-day action plan out there and get something immediately done that can help — but that’s such a complicated issue,” Ross said. “The thing that hurts the most is there are homeless kids out there. … It seems to me we should be able to do something right away — a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan.”
Ross hopes to serve District 2 through “dignity, teamwork and professionalism.”
“It’s clear over the last four years that we need a change. We need somebody that will be respectful of others and work with them and promote the area and do the job the citizens want done,” Ross said. “I don’t have Democrat values, or Republican values — I have Grays Harbor values.”