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Karen Valenzuela

130 East Lee St.
Tumwater, WA 98501
236-3158 –day
357-7516 –evening

1. The position of County Commissioner is the only elective office beyond that in which
I currently serve that I’ve ever seriously considered. I revel in the policymaking aspects
of my job as a City Councilmember, and enjoy the challenge of shaping our
comprehensive plan to reflect the dreams and desires of our community. I love engaging
with my community and fellow policymakers in this process, and though it’s never
possible to please all the people all the time, it’s nonetheless gratifying to come to
conclusion if not consensus with our community after a long process of meeting,
listening, returning to the drawing board, perfecting and, finally, celebrating. Serving as a
County Commissioner in these challenging times would present the opportunity for me to
do this kind of work full-time as my major endeavor, rather than in the ‘after hours’ mode
in which I now do my City Council work. I look forward to having just one job, as an
elected –even if the hours are 24/7—rather than fitting my elected duties around my full-
time ‘day job.'

2. While I wouldn’t claim to be uniquely qualified to fill this vacancy --that is, I believe
there are a number of extremely qualified people in our community who could do this job
—I do feel that experience as a local elected on the Tumwater City Council for the past
nine years prepares me well to assume this position. County Commissioners also fill a
very important role as the local Board of Health. I’ve worked in public health for 20
years, and have a broad and deep understanding of the public health needs and challenges
that face our community, and how to apply policy solutions to those needs. There's a
great deal of overlap between the goals of public health –healthy people in healthy
communities-- and the goals local electeds strive to achieve in every decision we make.
Applying public health principles to my decision making as an elected will continue, I
believe, to serve me as well as a County Commissioner as it has as a City
Councilmember. Additionally, I’ve served on many interjurisdictional committees* as a
City Councilmember, and have interacted extensively with County Commissioners and
City Councilmembers from other jurisdictions, which gives me a vantage point from
which to understand the issues facing local governments in our county. I’ve served for
several years as parliamentarian to two organizations and have many years' involvement
in leadership positions in several professional organizations.** I'm well versed in the
procedurally appropriate ways to conduct meetings, both formal as well as less formal
community meetings. My philosophy of governance is openness and accessibility,
engagement with the community, and listening. Always listening.
3. The person appointed to fill this position must be immediately ready to both do the job
of County Commissioner, while at the same time beginning a virtually non-stop 2-year
campaign to keep the job. I’m experienced at both, as this is similar to the circumstances
I faced when I was appointed to the Tumwater City Council in 2000. I believe my
experience on City Council over the last nine years and the fact that I have name
recognition in our community will stand me in good stead in both roles as a
Commissioner and campaigner. As an active member of the Thurston County Democrats
for several years, I believe I’ll have significant support building a campaign team, and
will benefit from the advice and experience of fellow activists in my role as a
Commissioner. I’m an energetic, hard working and experienced policymaker and
campaigner, and am prepared for the considerable challenges appointment to this position
will present.

4. Three things I want to accomplish as a County Commissioner are:
a. review the County’s revenue sources and plan for a rational approach to budgeting
that doesn’t deplete reserves or omit providing essential services in public health
and safety to county residents. For example, in the case of some of the county’s
public health programs, I believe it is penny-wise but pound-foolish to cut
spending of local money when that money leverages millions in state and federal
funds for programs in our community that have proven outcomes and without
which, we all incur longer-term social and financial costs. I believe in making
investments now that reap benefits in the long term.
b. review the County’s adherence to the spirit and letter of the Growth Management
Act, strengthening where possible and considering rezoning where necessary to
preserve the amazing environmental assets we have in our rivers, forests, habitat
preserves, agricultural lands and open space. I believe the main reason most
development takes place in the unincorporated parts of our county rather than in
our urban areas as the GMA encourages is because it’s considerably less
expensive to develop in the county, due largely to the lack of impact fees. At the
same time, this lack of impact fees deprives the county of revenue needed to
provide infrastructure and services to people in these newly developing areas.
This sort of development pattern contributes to sprawl, damages our ability to
preserve open space and forests and agricultural lands --which I really believe the
people of our county want to do, requires constant road-building, and contributes
heavily to pollution and, ultimately, to climate change. To conform more closely
with both the spirit and the letter of the GMA, county development policy should
support cities in restraining sprawl and containing growth within the urban
boundaries. This pattern and policy practiced by the county is long overdue for
change. And of course, Thurston County must fully engage with the Puget Sound
Partnership: county land use policies must help, not hinder, efforts to clean up
Puget Sound.
c. meet regularly with the local governments in Thurston County, including the Port
of Olympia, to more collaboratively plan for a future that is prosperous,
sustainable, and equitable, which can only happen through true joint planning.
Most of the cities in Thurston County have begun taking steps to confront climate
change; the County must follow suit and cease using lack of money as the excuse
to put off this important work. Climate change work is something we can no
longer afford to treat as an expense we cannot afford.

The major initiatives I've instigated or supported as a Tumwater City Councilmember of
which I'm particularly proud include Tumwater's sister city relationship with Mubende,
Uganda; the Tumwater Farmers Market; and Tumwater's climate change work, begun two
years ago with our signing on to the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and
joining ICLEI (International Conference on Local Environmental Initiatives). In addition
to the more routine work all City Councilmembers and County Commissioners must
undertake daily, I believe it is also important to look beyond the borders of our
community and engage in efforts that help or improve places and people wherever it is
needed, whenever we're able. As a County Commissioner, I would continue governing
by this philosophy. We face unprecedented times now, which will test the courage and
fortitude and stick-to-it-iveness of us all. I think people are looking for leaders to work
with who are willing to listen to all ideas and consider completely new ways to confront
what lies ahead, involving all sectors of our community in solving our problems. I see
myself among those leaders.

*Intercity Transit Authority; Human Services Review Council; Thurston Regional
Planning Council; CapComm; Solid Waste Advisory Committee; Thurston County
HOME Consortium; Thurston Climate Action Team
**American Public Health Association; Washington State Public Health
Association; Washington State Environmental Health Association