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Kittitas County Commissioner 1

The board of county commissioners is the legislative authority for the county in the 33 noncharter counties. The commissioners serve as the chief administrators for most county operations.

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  • Candidate picture

    Kristin Ashley

  • Candidate picture

    Cory Wright

Biographical Information

How would you address the three most important issues facing the County?

How can the County address the lack of mental health providers and services?

How should the County handle budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 measures?

What proposals do you have for economic development and expansion of living wage jobs during the pandemic recovery?

How do you propose to balance a reduced budget with increased need for services?

Party Preference Republican
Experience (Max 500 characters) Deployed Veteran Raised in Kittitas County. Volunteered as Active Duty Army Medic from 2004-2009. Honorably Discharged with multiple awards to include Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Campaign Medal with Campaign Star. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from CWU with Double Major in Global Wine Studies which focuses on marketing and selling a value-added agricultural product, and Tourism Management. This positions me perfectly to assist local farmers and ranchers with Agritourism Development
Campaign Phone (760) 957-5051
Campaign Email
Town where you live Ellensburg, WA
With respectful communication, transparency, and creative solutions.

The three most important issues facing the county are: need for mental and behavioral health services, difficulty of hardworking farmers and ranchers to make a living, and residents who feel that their voices are not heard.

I will support the 1/10th of 1% Sales tax to support mental health. This will allow us to invest proactively and reduce the taxpayer money money which is now spent responding, jailing, and hospitalizing community residents that have reached a point of crises.

Farmers and Ranchers in Kittitas County would make at least 30% more profit with Direct to Consumer Sales. Only 10% of our farms sell directly to consumers. I am excited to explore ways to market every agricultural and animal product.

Everyone in our community should be represented by their local government. This includes small business and our minority populations. I will listen and form collaborative plans and solutions for our future.
The 1/10 of 1% Mental Health Sales Tax is a great place to start.

Not only would it contribute money to support counseling, self-help classes, and medication, but it also would make our county more eligible for federal and state grants which could bring in an additional $3-4 million dollars in revenue to support mental and behavioral health.

Currently Comprehensive Mental Health is overworked and understaffed. I am reaching out to Comprehensive Mental Health and Central Washington University's Social Work and Mental Health Graduate Degree programs to inquire if graduate interns could support our mental health services with triage skills while we await funding.

I have contacted local enforcement and they already designed plans to support residents mental and behavioral health as soon as funding is available. Healthy residents suffer less from substance abuse and have the can be more productive workers and family members. Healthy families build a brilliant future for our community.
I have reached out to current county commissioners and was pleased to discover that our county is fiscally responsible and conservative in our expenses.

This means that our county budget is stable and our shortfalls will only come in the form of nonessential expenditures.

We can use this place of economic stability for the county to better support our small businesses. We can free up funds from our county coffers to further support the recovery of our family owned businesses throughout the valley and restore living wage jobs for residents of our county.
Supporting small businesses throughout our county is crucial.

When we support our small businesses, they will be able to keep their doors open and employees can return to work. Residents who are able to earn a living wage employed at small businesses will be capable of maintaining stable housing for themselves and their families.

We just hired a Director of the Airport who is focused on development of the Airport Business Park. This will invigorate 800 acres of Industrial Zoned Land. As businesses move in, living wage jobs will be created and the taxes that the larger businesses pay will alleviate pressure from residents, farmers and ranchers, and small family businesses.

Agritourism will benefit Farmers and Ranchers by increasing profit margins with Direct to Consumer Sales opportunities, diversification of products and value-added experiences.

Locals who make a living wage can afford to buy properties in our county instead of losing them to wealthy investors from the west side.
Our budget is healthy and we have been fiscally responsible.

That being said, we do have need for services. I intend to continue to work hard for creative solutions to manage our public lands and keep them accessible. 71% of Kittitas County lands are public and we need to determine how to get recreational users from the west side to assist with funds and effort to maintain them without deterring lower income families in our own community from their access.

I am open to any and all ideas and opportunities. My personal ideas include integrating tourism and controlled tours where locals can be tour guides and teach visitors how to enjoy, appreciate, and steward our lands while our local guides and lands make a profit. The outdoors should remain accessible. It is important to share our space with the west side so that they consider us when legislation is on the table. They have the funds to help our stewardship, we just need to show them how to be respectful of our home.
Party Preference Republican
Experience (Max 500 characters) I joined the Board of County Commissioners in July 2018 after former Commissioner Paul Jewell resigned. Voters elected me to complete the unexpired term last November. I was born and raised in Ellensburg, which my family has called home for seven generations. I graduated from Ellensburg High School and earned a degree from Central Washington University. I also have a degree in Marine Transportation and enjoyed a 20-year career in the maritime industry prior to becoming County Commissioner.
Campaign Phone (509) 341-0540
Town where you live Ellensburg
The highest-priority issue right now is COVID-19 management and recovery. Until we have moved back into a normal rhythm, supporting our citizens and businesses is our top concern. This will require adequately funding our public health system as well as continuing to push for state and federal funding for our small businesses that have been hit hardest by state-mandated measures.

A byproduct of COVID has been additional forecasted growth on top of the population expansion already happening. Virtual meetings and telecommuting appear to be here to stay, and many more will be looking to live where they now play. Intelligent expansion of buildable land and arterials in a county that has little to give will be a top priority to maintain our way of life while keeping housing affordable.

Post-COVID recovery will also require streamlining for revenue shortfalls. I will continue my work to bring quality management principles to our County government to reduce waste and save taxpayer dollars.
First, education to help our citizens understand the extent of our mental health crisis is necessary. This is currently ongoing through the Kittitas County Health Network. Depression, addiction, and suicide are an underlying drain on government resources as well as an impact in our schools, businesses, and families. A targeted prevention focus will not only positively affect our families but also save money. I support a mental health tax measure with a sunset provision and an oversight committee comprising citizens not associated with organizations receiving funds. Programs to not only help students at risk but also our highest suicide group (males over 45 years old) should be analyzed and put forward for consideration. Our jail release system is one of the most opportune points to show great gains in improvement. By instituting a “warm handoff” system proven to work, we can break the cycle of recidivism that keeps people behind bars instead of moving forward after paying their debt.
While current county budget forecasts show a picture that may be less dire than other areas, cuts to state funding still remain to be seen. Given this reality, we must be ready to make reductions if necessary. Capital projects will need to be delayed. Asset replacement cycles will need to be extended. Creative staffing solutions will need to be analyzed to preserve our levels of expertise and customer service. However, county efforts to leverage budget resources for greater external funding will also need to be expanded. Our recent hiring of a federal consultant puts Kittitas County on par with larger areas familiar with using these resources that have previously gone untapped. We will continue to balance the needs of our citizens and the basic requirements of public safety, transportation, infrastructure, health, and statutory requirements with the desire to achieve successes in economic development, facility improvements, and service expansion.
The pandemic as well as unrest in urban areas has the potential to drastically change Kittitas County economically. Relocation and telecommuting may well be the way of the future for our area. We must be ready to accept new businesses while preserving our way of life. Bolstering our economic planning is critical. 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 open spaces, we must work to develop a community-driven strategy that promotes our area to target industries. We have yet to define ourselves as a County. Just as we are undertaking a strategic plan now at Bowers Field to develop the future of that industrial facility, we must do the same on a broader county basis.
Focusing on priority services first will ensure the right service needs are met. Public health and safety, courts, infrastructure, transportation, and statutory requirements are where we must focus our attention. For those service sectors which lie outside, leveraging our existing funds to achieve greater external funding can be accomplished to only expand primary services but also continue secondary ones. Additionally, focusing on economic expansion will build our primary tax base and provide needed family-wage jobs.