Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

Kittitas County Commissioner 1

The board of county commissioners is the legislative authority for the county in the 33 noncharter counties. The county commissioners in the noncharter counties also serve as the chief administrators for most county operations. The commissioners or council members adopt ordinances, resolutions, and motions, levy taxes, appropriate revenue, and adopt the final budget for the county. The legislative body confirms appointments to county boards and commissions. The commissioners or council members appoint the members of the boundary review board and planning commission in counties which have created this board and commission. The commissioners can also sit as the board of equalization (basically the county board of property tax appeals) to review disputed assessments.

Click a candidate icon to find more information about the candidate. To compare two candidates, click the "compare" button. To start over, click a candidate icon.

  • Candidate picture

    Nancy Lillquist

  • Candidate picture

    Cory Wright

Biographical Information

How has your experience prepared you for this position?

What will be your top three priorities, if elected?

What measures do you favor to keep your county economically viable?

How do you view balancing development with protecting our natural resources?

What do you think are the most important environmental issues your county will face due to changing climate?

What are the issues surrounding your county's infrastructure?

How do you think your county should approach legal and illegal immigration issues?

How do you think your county could best respond to homelessness and the economically disadvantaged?

Phone (509) 899-2821
Party Preference Democrat
Town where you live Ellensburg, WA
Experience (300 characters max) I have served City of Ellensburg citizens as elected council member since 2001. I have learned from my time on committees including solid waste, lodging tax, critical areas, mental health, developmental disabilities, comprehensive plan, salmon recovery, flood control, KITTCOM, EMS, and others.
I have been elected to the Ellensburg City Council 4 times and have 17 years of experience governing – engaging with citizens, developing new policies, passing laws and budgets, and holding staff accountable. I have represented the citizens and City Council on many boards and commissions on a variety of topics through which I have gained an understanding of different policy areas, including land use, water and fish, and solid waste issues. I have met and built relationships with numerous people I will work with as County Commissioner. I know the basic rules governing public officials in Washington State including Appearance of Fairness and Open Public Meetings laws. My previous employment for the states of Oregon and Utah in the water resources field as well as my educational background in Geography (BA) and Water Resources Management (MS), will be useful in addressing one of the most pressing issues in the County – adequate, sustainable water supply for people, farms and fisheries.
Preparing for population growth. The State predicts Kittitas County will grow by 2% per year – 20,000 new people in 20 years. Growth puts pressure on housing, employment, transportation, and water resources. We need to ensure laws, policies and investments will implement our local vision and goals as we grow. The next few years are critical to the County’s future.

Responding to wildfire. It is critical we prepare for the next big wildfire by steering new homes away from high risk areas, building fire resistant homes and landscapes, ensuring evacuation routes, providing resources for emergency responders, and working with partners to promote long-term forest health.

Promoting government efficiency. The County will work better for citizens if it can attract and retain good staff. Current employee turnover is too high. Commissioners should be strategic about public facility investments; I would review maintenance costs versus public benefits to determine each facility‘s future.
A variety of strategies are needed improve our local economy. Kittitas County should: - Provide good roads, functioning airport facilities, dependable utilities, and sensible zoning and land use regulations. - Work with partners, including CWU and the Chamber of Commerce, to support home-grown jobs with innovation, networking, business plan assistance, and training. - Support apprenticeship and mentoring programs to introduce young people to the building trades. - Ensure reliable water supply for a continued agricultural economy through the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan collaboration. - Support forest health and thinning initiatives for forestry jobs. - Work with cities and partners on an economic development strategy that takes advantage of existing assets, imagines what the jobs of the future will need, and honors each community’s vision for itself.
Sustaining our resource-based economies and protecting the intrinsic values of our natural environment require careful thought as to how new development (residential, commercial, or industrial) will either support or get in the way of those economies and values. Kittitas County has a rich history of farming and ranching in the lower county; the forestry and mining economies of Upper County are now transitioning to recreation. Beyond economics, the value of forest and shrub steppe environments and the fish and wildlife they support are essential to the character of Kittitas County. In the County’s latest Visioning process, Natural Resources was the highest ranked topic area, including water resources, accessibility to natural areas, and land management. County policies should respond. Since two-thirds of Kittitas County land is managed by Federal and State agencies, Commissioners must develop relationships with leadership in those agencies to make reasonable land-use decisions.
Addressing the increased occurrence of drought, flooding, and wildfire predicted by climate models will be critical to our future. We must maintain an adequate water supply for people, farms, and fisheries. The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan provides a roadmap for ensuring a reliable future water source through conservation, marketing, enhanced supply, fish passage and habitat projects. We need to protect and restore floodplains and explore innovative techniques for spreading floodwater to recharge aquifers to maintain summer streamflow. New calculations for flood flow are needed to re-size culverts and other near-stream infrastructure. Wildfires have already increased in size and frequency. Restoring forest health through thinning and understory management will reduce the risk of megafires and increase carbon sequestration. Commissioners should work with Federal and State agencies to support economical solutions for accomplishing thinning projects.
The main issues are finding funding for maintenance and repairs and getting priorities right. For example, the airport, an important public facility for business travel and emergency services, needs $10 million worth of safety improvements, yet the County recently turned down a grant for the facility. An $11 million safety project to replace the Rodeo Grandstands is needed, as is maintenance of other fairgrounds buildings; meanwhile the County has spent over $5 million expanding the Event Center including purchase of a bowling alley (that has sat vacant for 4 years and now has mold issues) and a trailer park (that became embroiled in a lawsuit). At the same time, Event Center managers are expected to break-even operationally, a feat that even the expansion plan admits is unlikely. Commissioners should prioritize maintaining what we’ve got over expanding that facility, aggressively seek grant funding for critical facilities, and consider selling properties that don’t add value.
Immigration laws are hotly debated at the national and state levels; laws passed at those levels govern and constrain Kittitas County’s options. Our area, especially Roslyn, has a rich heritage of immigrant labor; immigrants continue to contribute to our local culture and economy and should be welcomed. I urge Congress to fix the legal immigration system which I believe is the first step in solving the illegal immigration issue. Washington State now restricts local authorities from asking about immigration status. Locally, where there is flexibility within those state and federal laws, the County should work with immigrant communities to reduce the climate of fear and increase trust. People acting in fear make poor choices. I have had, and will continue, conversations with Sheriff Dana, who, as an elected official, has policy discretion in law enforcement matters.
Addressing homelessness and serving the economically disadvantaged will take partnerships with cities, state and federal agencies, and non-profits. The County’s main resource for leveraging grants and partnerships, the Homelessness and Affordable Housing fund, did not seek requests for proposals this year. That Committee needs new members and energy to effectively do its vital work. Kittitas County generally has low incomes and high rents, leaving many residents with little financial cushion and vulnerable to eviction. Housing vouchers and temporary housing can help. Homelessness is sometimes connected to other issues, such as mental illness or domestic violence. The County Public Health Department has several programs targeting disadvantaged groups and works closely with social service agencies and advocates. Coordinating support to meet the whole of a person’s needs rather than pieces has the best chance of moving that person to a place where support is no longer needed.
Phone (509) 341-0540
Party Preference Republican
Town where you live Ellensburg
Experience (300 characters max) I am the current County Commissioner for District 1. My family has been in the County for over 150 years. I worked for 20 years in large-scale business, and my career spanned many areas including operations management, quality assurance, risk mitigation, project management and business development.
With a budget of $100 million and about 300 employees, Kittitas County is one of the largest employers in the area. I believe my private sector employment has uniquely prepared me to be a County Commissioner. During my career, I was incredibly fortunate to be placed into various positions which would eventually comprise a strong foundation to lead a broad organization. From managing a team of superintendents overseeing almost 200 longshoremen to persuading a customer across a conference table why they should do business with my company, each one of these jobs was a pillar in making me a strong Commissioner. I am confident that my breadth of experience will bring the level of strategic thinking and attention to detail necessary to keep Kittitas County moving forward.
Economic Development• I will continue leading County efforts to improve our industrial airport lands as well as work with lawmakers to develop forest-management strategies and potentially site new timber processing in the Upper County. By doing so, we can create good-paying jobs and diversify our historic economic model. Smart, Efficient Government• My business experience has taught me that a well-developed plan will produce an expected and consistent product. I will continue my work to bring quality management principles to our County government which reduce waste, retain employees, and save our taxpayers money. Strategic Management• Our county has service and facility needs which have been kicked down the road for far too long. Through community engagement, we must develop a strategic plan for not just our county facilities, but all of our service districts from schools to fire departments, to avoid future ballot measures that compete with each other for tax dollars year after year
In business, staying economically viable means promoting your strengths and finding new opportunities. Our county must do the same. We are at the transportation crossroads of the state, within two hours of a major metropolitan center and seaport, home to an acclaimed university, and live within minutes anywhere in the County from amazing natural beauty. No other county in our area can boast all of these assets. As we continue improving our industrial land inventory while protecting our agricultural and resource lands, we must work to develop a community-driven strategy which promotes our area to target industries. We have yet to define that ourselves as a County. I support beginning with the basics - our citizens coming together with local governments, schools, civic organizations, and private business to define our economic future and develop the steps to support that vision. Only then can we identify the steps necessary to bring our future to the present.
Protection of our existing agricultural lands as well as actively managing our forests and timberlands is paramount for ensuring our way of life lives on. Commissioners must advocate for our resource lands at all levels. My work on the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan has afforded Kittitas County the opportunity to be a leader on balancing the needs of industry and residential water use with supporting fish habitat and watershed lands restoration. I am proud of the solutions we have put in place as a County for floodplain restoration while also supporting local employers like Twin City Foods. Additionally, our County Water Mitigation and Metering Program continues to ensure our residential development has access to domestic wells while ensuring our aquifers and surface creeks continue to be viable. Kittitas County will push on to develop innovative solutions to ensure our resources are available for future generations.
With climate models indicating winter weather shifting from snow to rainfall, is is critical we build new water storage. I have already started this work as our County’s voice to the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan by forming relationships with state and federal lawmakers and securing funding for these large-scale projects. Predicted flooding is also being addressed with new projects reclaiming floodplain that not only protect homes and businesses, but also provide new habitat. Access to water will continue to challenge us as our population grows, especially for our cities and water districts. The County is now exploring ways to help bridge the gap to permanent solutions. Lastly, our forests must be managed and ready to withstand drier summers. Wildfires are a real and present threat and our forest management practices must reflect that. This means working with the Forest Service, private industry and other stakeholders to protect resources while reducing fuels by harvesting and thinning
Facilities, roads and other vital County assets continue to suffer in the face of higher demands on services as a result of our growing population. As any successful business knows, we must look to develop new revenue via economic development and lower the burden on our residents. Also, strategic planning is required to prioritize projects based on an asset’s useful life. Fiscal responsibility is knowing when replacing a facility makes more sense than continuing to repair it, but it can’t all be done at once. Our County taxpayers deserve to know when they can expect these facilities to be replaced without another big tax hike. Our courthouse, airport, bridges and roads are critical issues which must be addressed with community outreach and a common understanding of the costs and solutions. Commissioners must not only lead this but also be active in securing additional funding outside of our County where possible. I have done this before, and I will continue to do it.
Our nation was founded and built on immigrants who arrived on our shores, created a shared American culture, and expected the same of those who followed in their footsteps. I believe legal immigration continues to bring the best and brightest to our nation today, and the investment of energy and talent those same legal immigrants make is a testament to their belief that the United States continues to be the same beacon it has always been. I also believe we live in a nation of laws guided by the principles of our Constitution. As such, our County government is responsible to enforce those laws. Having so recently been touched by a senseless tragedy perpetrated by someone in our country illegally, I believe our responsibility lies with protecting our residents from those who would circumvent our laws – all laws.
Kittitas County has been largely successful in the fight against homelessness, and our recent designation of having a “Functional Zero” count of homeless veterans proves that. However, our “working poor” continue to push for better lives. Having been unemployed myself during the Great Recession, I understand the pressures of trying to make ends meet. Our County can best assist these same families by making our area enticing to new businesses, while funding services that provide assistance during times of need. Our County should certainly provide the hand up while expecting able folks to be self-sufficient within a fixed period. For those who may not be, such as our seniors and veterans, diligent oversight of those funds state law diverts from county revenue is required. As the chair of the County Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee, my expectation is for strategic use of our funding for long-term effectiveness – not short-term bandaids. I believe we are doing just that.