Rick Hole, former assessor, files for county commissioner seat

Lone Republican in District 2 race emphasizes public safety and job growth as top priorities

Rick Hole, former county assessor and chair of the Grays Harbor County Republican Party, is making a bid for county commissioner.

Hole filed earlier this month for the District 2 seat, joining Democrats Brian Blake, a former state legislator, and Jerry Rajcich, a public health specialist, who declared their candidacy in April.

All three will appear on the Aug. 6 Primary ballot. Outgoing Commissioner Kevin Pine won’t run again for District 2, which stretches from U.S. Highway 101 to the Pacific Ocean on the south bank of the Chehalis and includes Aberdeen.

Like the commissioner race in East County, where Republican candidate Georgia Miller will battle three Democrats, the District 2 seat features Hole seeking to beat out two Democrats to replace an outgoing commissioner as the Republican party hopes to maintain the majority on the board.

“I think common sense government is still the number-one priority,” Hole said in an interview Thursday. “I don’t see that being delivered by the current Democratic government. You’ve got to rise to the occasion.”

Hole said government overreach has “awakened people across the state,” pointing to laws such as Senate Bill 5599 — which allows organizations providing health services, including gender affirming care, to unsheltered youth to delay parental notification in some instances — have gone too far.

“We’re going, wait a minute, we’ve got to turn this ship,” he said.

Getting into politics was something Hole “always wanted to do.” He served four years as Grays Harbor County Assessor after his election in 2010. He lost a reelection bid in 2014 and 2022. Shortly after that, his party elected him as chair in December 2022, where he has served since.

Hole listed public safety and job growth as his top priorities, recalling visits to local stores to see items locked up on shelves to prevent theft.

“We shouldn’t be locking up our shelves, we need to be locking up our criminals,” he said. “It’s out of control.”

He also pointed to the role that jails could play in helping remedy the addiction crisis.

“A timeout to try to break addictions and problems like that is better than spending money to support addictions,” he said.

But solutions to homelessness will also require focus on affordable housing, Hole said, such as modifying previous zoning decisions to accommodate Accessible Dwelling Units, which has been done in other areas.

Originally from Moses Lake, Hole, 69, came to Grays Harbor in 1976 and began working at the Weyerhaeuser plant in Aberdeen. He began taking classes at Grays Harbor College and a few years later moved to Washington State University in Pullman to earn degrees in soil science and business, with an emphasis on accounting. He returned to the Harbor to work as a cost analyst at Ocean Spray — a job that combined his business skills with an interest in agriculture.

“I understood the science of the process and stuff like that,” Hole said, referring to cranberry products. “And then I was able to talk to the farmers. I still have a good relationship with farmers around here, because that’s an important part of Grays Harbor.”

Years earlier, in Moses Lake, Hole grew up working on farms. Today he lives on six acres near Westport Winery with his wife, Linda, where they raise sheeps and goats, and grow fruit trees.

“You have good times and bad times as a farmer,” he said. “What you need to do is be smart with your money in the good times so that you can make it through the bad times.”

Hole worked at Ocean Spray for 27 years, he said, rising to plant manager, where he helped add the craisin product to the plant, which added 132 new jobs. He said he was successful in union contract negotiations with minimal grievances.

“I’m going to come at things from a different perspective than a lot of your other candidates, because of my training in the private sector,” he said.

He added that the job gave him experience dealing with budgets. Faced with the county’s $3.2 million budget deficit, Hole said he couldn’t promise major budget cuts, and would instead approach the issue by focusing on growing the county’s tax base, highlighting potential uses for wood products in wind turbines and as replacements for concrete.

He also suggested a mental health facility as an avenue to good wage jobs, and that he’d like to see the expansion of elder care.

He said the foundation to jobs is education and emphasized vocational opportunities in schools and local businesses.

“We have a beautiful area: beaches, we have all the resources, colleges and stuff like that,” he said. “So let’s build some jobs.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.