By Justin Aufdermauer
Monday night the Chamber hosted its first candidate forum – Business TALKS – at Pacific Restaurant. All six county commissioners showed up ready to ask questions, listen to answers, and learn from the experts: you the community.
Thank you to those who showed up and learned with us, and for supporting the Chamber in this inaugural endeavor. There are several more forums planned between now and May, and it was a fun honor to be the first one, and to host it in a place that felt a little less formal, and in a format that was definitely outside the box. This time, candidates gave opening statements and then asked the audience a question or two.
Why did we do it this way? Earlier in the year we had a stake holders group of small and large business in the county and one of the things they spoke to was the Chamber’s role in advocacy. One of the key ways we get involved in advocacy is by informing the community about issues that may affect them. With six individuals running for county commissioner, one of them will get elected and will be representing us at the county level and making decisions. We felt at the Chamber that we had a responsibility to help voters get the information they needed to make an informed decision – so we concocted this idea to bring a number of questions surrounding economic development to the commissioners and ask them to think on it, and formulate questions for the audience based on those initial summaries we gathered.
This was not only a forum specific to economic vitality in Tillamook county, but an opportunity to assess each candidate’s leadership and communications styles; how they listen and how they engage with others. Our goal was this opening forum would provide context for voters as they read pamphlets and attend other, more traditional forums.
We didn’t have a lot of talkers in the room – but I think everyone walked away with more information on both the issues and the candidates than we had when we walked in. A number of topics were covered in a quick secession, and all within that umbrella of economic vitality. If anything, we learned that the issues that affect businesses in our county are far and wide – from development, to housing, to communications and preparing for natural disasters. We heard from business owners, nonprofit leaders, volunteers, long-time residents and entrepreneurs who got to share their concerns and their knowledge on issues that the candidates brought forward.
We also saw a lot of different styles, both in personality and knowledge of these extensive issues. We heard about each candidate’s backgrounds and how they reached the decision to run for county commissioner, and the issues they’re passionate about. It was a good listening exercise for both the voters and the candidates.
Thank you to everyone who attended and shared their opinions; thank you to Pacific Restaurant for their support in hosting this event, and to the Tillamook Headlight Herald for their presence. Thank you to the six candidates who not only showed up ready to work, but I also want to thank them for their willingness to serve and grow our community. Public service is not easy work, it’s not often fun work, and soon one of them will take the reigns as Tillamook County Commissioner to help lead our county.