County Commission candidates focus on economy, local services, taxes: Seat 3: Will Tucker

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Tucker, a Republican, is facing Democrat Gordon Kirbey Jr. for Linn County Commissioner position three, the seat that Republican Cliff Wooten is vacating this year. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 17 for the Nov. 4. election.

Tucker is pleased with the direction of the county, he said. The county was prepared to deal with the loss of federal timber payments while other counties were forced to make drastic cuts.

Now that the money has been restored for another four years, the Budget Committee will look at ways to wisely invest the money, most likely in one-time expenditures the county needs to make.

“I’m hoping we can bank some of that and invest in the things that’ll keep jobs here in Linn County,” Tucker said.

Before the good news, the county was prepared, he said. It restructured to do the same job, provide the same services, to more people and serve the people of Linn County with less money.

Department heads came up with ways to save money, he said, such as deputies taking patrol cars home rather than driving all the way to Albany to pick up a car each shift.

Tucker is interested in continuing the economic development efforts of the county, he said. In Sweet Home, “the thing I heard was economic development as well as a longer-term master plan.”

He is looking forward to meeting and working with local city councils and visiting Sweet Home to talk about what economic development means to the community, he said. He advocates spending money conservatively while avoiding new taxes and better utilizing the resources already available.

Now is the time to spend economic development dollars, he said, because construction trades are down and the contractors could use the work. And now “might be the time (for Sweet Home) to say, what could you do, county?”

Tucker applauds the county’s work bringing Lowe’s into east Linn County, and he looks forward to the possibility of another distribution center locating in the area, he said. “Distribution centers don’t have the same effect as a multiplier” as manufacturing, but they do draw satellite manufacturing interests, which want to hold down transportation costs.

He plans to play an active role in attracting new businesses and stabilizing the local economy, he said.

Tucker emphasizes law enforcement as a priority, he said. The voters have been kind enough to provide a levy for law enforcement with the promise of law enforcement service; and protecting that service is a must.

“If we don’t keep the constituents safe, you’ve broken your promise,” he said. He doesn’t like the consequences of not doing so.

Benton County has hours in the night without a deputy on duty, he said. They’re on call, but “it’s the wrong message to send to criminals. I am committed to giving (the sheriff) the staffing necessary to do a good job. At the same time, I challenge him, like any department head, to find efficiencies.”

And the Sheriff’s Office has done that, he said, using new technology to save money.

“I want parks to grow and flourish,” Tucker said. He has supported a parks system that improves the quality of life for local residents as well as providing a destination for travelers, a system that is affordable to local residents.

Parks once received 70 percent of their funding through the general fund, he said. Without raising prices too high, the parks have been able to generate 70 percent of their own funding, drawing only about 30 percent of their budget from the general fund.

The proposed RV park off Interstate 5 offers a chance for even more of parks funding to be self-generated, but Tucker doesn’t want the funding to be 100 percent self-generated.

“I desire to have the parks and fair and expo out of the general fund,” he said. But he would still like those operations somehow tied to tax dollars, perhaps 10 percent of their funding.

“I’ve already been able to be a community activist,” he said. He has been able to get involved and prepare himself for a commissioner seat for years. Working as a broker with RE/MAX, he is self-employed and has the time to devote to the position.

Tucker has served on the Linn County Budget Committee, Planning Commission and Parks Board. He recently left the Planning Commission to volunteer with Court-Appointed Special Advocates, third-party advocates who work on behalf of children in the court system to ensure their interests are protected.

“I love Linn County, and I love Oregon,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been so activist.”

He is the kind of person who is at work at 7 a.m. wondering why others aren’t answering calls yet, he said, and he’s just as likely to be there at the end of the day after everyone else has gone home.

He said he might be a little too aggressive and have a little too much energy.

“You’re going to get somebody who says, I want to do that job,” he said. To that end, he sought the commissioners 15 years ago and asked how he should go about it. On their advice, he got heavily involved in county committees to learn everything he could about the county.

He has experience with budgets, small, medium and large, with the county, his local school and Hewlett-Packard where he managed engineers. He understands the ebb and flow of public money.

“You’re going to get a person that’s a pretty plain talker,” he said. He isn’t worried much about the politics of things. He’ll speak plainly, and he isn’t afraid to discuss things.

Tucker is a high school graduate without a college degree who managed engineers with MBAs and large factories, he said. He is “smart by practical experience, a hands-on person.”

He will be accessible, he said. He is in the phone book.

He “tries to understand both sides of an issue,” he said. He doesn’t vote party lines, and sometimes people may think he’s on the other side. But what he’s doing when he’s trying to make a decision is to understand what everyone is saying.