Tucker says business background will help county

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Will Tucker believes that his work experience and his work with county committees, including the Budget Committee, have prepared him to lead Linn County through expected lean times.

Tucker, a Republican, was the first candidate to file for Cliff Wooten’s position on the county Board of Commissioners. Wooten is not planning to run again, choosing to angle for the 17th District House seat.

Tucker served on the Budget Committee while the county dealt with the effects of 1990’s Measure 5, and he has served the past seven years on the committee.

“With timber revenue shortfalls, we’ve been actually preparing for it for years,” Tucker said.

Federal “safety net” funds are expected possibly to end next year. The funds have been paid to counties affected by the reduction in timber harvests from federal lands in the 1990s. The money was provided in lieu of taxes that counties received from timber harvest.

Through attrition and restructuring, the county has been balancing budgets and socking away money for years, Tucker said, so it will not face the massive layoffs that other counties are anticipating.

“I was a part of these efforts,” Tucker said. “I continue to be part of these efforts.

“The writing’s been on the wall. We didn’t want to be in the position Benton County is, without sheriff patrols at night. It hurts Linn County, but it’s not a disaster.”

Linn County won’t be cutting 20 to 40 employees all at once, like other counties, Tucker said optimistically, and the revenue that is lost will be regained through growth, including the construction of the PepsiCo bottling plant in Albany and Lowe’s attraction of new businesses in Lebanon.

As a top manager at Hewlett-Packard, Tucker oversaw hundreds of different kinds of employees and budgets.

“I’ve developed the background to be able to step into that job and contribute,” Tucker said.

Tucker joined the Parks Board five years ago, he said. At the time, the parks department was 70 percent funded by the county general fund and 30 percent funded by park revenues.

“It seemed to me if you use the parks, you should pay more than citizens that don’t use the parks,” he said. Now the parks department is 70 percent funded by revenues and only 30 percent funded by the general fund.

Service funding should largely be determined by who benefits, Tucker said. This applies to development. Developers should pay systems development costs, which they may pass on to their buyers. “I say, ‘Who’s benefiting?'”

“I am very much pro-business,” Tucker said. He believes Linn County needs a stable job base and more jobs. His preference is for more timber jobs.

Tucker also serves on the county Planning Commission, he said, and that’s an area where the county could improve its service.

“I’m the unofficial ombudsman for the planning challenged,” he said. He often works with people going through a planning process or the Measure 49 process.

“I see a need for the approach of the county to be rethought,” he said. He outlined an example of a man who visits the planning department. The clerk tells him whom he needs to see and then goes back to an office, returns and sits down, not saying a word to the customer.

“We need to change that sense of urgency in customer service,” he said. It’s not just the planning department. This kind of thing happens in the clerk’s office as well.

He understands what’s going on, he said. The planning clerk was watching the phone to see when the official the customer was seeking got off the phone.

Instead of “What do you want,” customers should hear, “How may I help you?”

The customer may not see or understand the dozens of often-difficult calls taken by that planning clerk during the day, Tucker said.

Tucker said he believes in “dreaming,” and he approaches difficult issues by finding common ground with others and then working toward it.

Tucker is positive about the direction of Linn County already, he said. “I am extremely happy with how the county’s been doing things.”

But he doesn’t always see the board articulate its decisions as a “board decision,” he said. Once a decision is reached by the board, a commissioner should stop arguing and support the decision.

“At the first opportunity where you think you have the data to change minds, then bring back the issue,” Tucker said.

He would like to see a board where the one in a 2-1 decision isn’t the same commissioner every time, he said.

Tucker was born in Portland, the son of Tom and the late Marge Tucker of Scio. He has three brothers and a sister, most of them in the Lebanon-Scio area.

He married his wife, Lynne, in 1973. They have three adult children and five grandchildren.

After spending six years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, with two years on active duty flying as an air crewman collecting naval intelligence, he served a year in the U.S. Army Reserve in Corvallis, training to be a drill instructor.

Tucker lives in Lacomb, outside of Lebanon and owns rentals in downtown Lebanon and Sweet Home. He raises timber and manages cattle on his ranch and is building a new home outside Crabtree with a Scio address.

He has worked in retail as a management trainee and assistant manager for J.C. Penney and Big 5. He joined Hewlett-Packard in 1972 and worked there for nearly 30 years, most of the time managing large manufacturing or distribution centers, including more than 100 employees. He was selected as one of HP’s top managers out of thousands.

Tucker managed HP’s relationship with offshore manufactures of notebook computers and power supplies, living and working out of Taiwan. As the Corvallis site evolved, he worked with research and development to create new products.

“At HP, I created multimillion dollar budgets and lived within them,” Tucker said. “I negotiated complex multi-year, multi-product contracts with worldwide companies. I hired, trained, motivated staff and as necessary, disciplined them, including termination. I sold products, services and built alliances.”

Tucker left HP to join an evolving company, Core Communications, as vice president of sales and marketing, he said. There he created marketing plans and budgets and hired and trained a sales force. The position was eliminated in 2003 as an effect of Sept. 11, 2001.

He returned to school in 2004 to get his real estate broker’s license and joined RE/MAX Integrity, serving Linn, Benton and Marion counties. He specializes in farms, ranches and woodlots and is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Santiam Board of Realtors and the WCR.

Tucker has served on the Budget Committee and School Board for the Lacomb School District.

He is a member of the Linn County Republican Party Central Committee, a delegate to the state party and a precinct committee person for Lacomb. He has actively and financially supported Republican candidates and been a staff volunteer for former Sen. Mae Yih. He did some limited volunteering for former Rep. Jeff Kropf in the late 1990s.

Tucker serves on the United Way of Linn County board. He has worked with United Way of Benton County, training loan executives, and he helped start the Lebanon Public School Foundation. He also has been on the boards of Linn-Benton Education Compact and “Open Door,” a sheltered workshop.

He has attended and taught at Linn-Benton Community College. He has attended RIT, Cal Poly and Arizona State as needed for his job.

He is a member of the American Legion, Post 53, and the Lebanon Elks. He and his wife are members of High Steppin’ Dance Club, a country western dance club.