Public invited to Sept. 24 Washington County Chair candidate forum at Pacific University

Forest Grove – What’s being billed as a “community conversation” with candidates running for the Washington County Commission chair position takes place in Forest Grove at Pacific University on Monday, September 24 at 7:00 p.m.

The so-called conversation, which has all the familiar trappings of a political debate, will take place inside the Taylor Auditorium at Marsh Hall in room 216 with free admission for the public — all are invited to attend.

An article that appears on the Pacific University website says seating is limited and will occur on a first-come, first-served basis, so arriving early is recommended.

The evening will involve speaking by Kathryn Harrington, a member of the Metro Council regional government — a city council of sorts for the three-county Portland metro region, which consists of a region-wide elected president and six councilors who are elected in what are billed as “nonpartisan races,” although, of course, everyone has his or her political leanings — and Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry, discussing issues Washington County as a whole faces in the future, notably environmental conservation, water resources, which are under more demand than ever now largely due to the booming legal marijuana industry, traffic congestion, land use, and overall growth.

Both Harrington and Terry are experienced politicians. Terry is a retired farmer in his early 70s whose notable interests lie in affordable housing and social services, as well as helping homeless and domestic violence victims. Terry also already is a Washington County commissioner, and he’s hedging that experience with being able to invigorate voters to elect him to the chair position.

Harrington, who is in her late 50s, has been an elected Metro councilor for more than a decade. However, Metro has a three-term limit for its councilors that she’s up against — her final term ends this December — so she’s hoping to bring her experience, which includes living in Washington County for more than 30 years, to work on both the opportunities and challenges that lie in the county’s future, notably decreasing traffic congestion, make housing more affordable for renters and buyers, creating policies aimed at helping local and small businesses, and protecting forest and farmland.

“The contest to select a new county commission chair is, arguably, the second-most important candidate election in the state after the governor’s race,” said Jim Moore, Pacific University’s director of political outreach for the Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement and the event’s moderator. “The new chair will be a crucial player in (Washington) county’s role as the economic engine for the entire state.”

The Washington County Commission governs the second-largest population of Oregon’s 36 counties — second only to the city of Portland itself. The most recent information available from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that Washington County’s population reached 589,000 as of July 1, 2017, a growth rate of 11.2 percent since 2010.

So, Moore may be right in arguing that the Washington County Commission chair position is the second-most important political post in Oregon next to the state’s governor.

In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau found Washington County’s population was about 532,000, meaning the county population grew by about 57,000 people since 2000.

According to Sperling’s Best Places, a website that ranks U.S. cities by their economies, Washington County’s job growth is expected to increase by 41.3 percent during the next 10 years, which is higher than the U.S. average of 38 percent.

By comparison, on July 1, 2017 the city of Portland’s population held just less than 648,000 people — Multnomah County itself had a population of about 808,000 — while Clackamas County’s population climbed to just less than 413,000.

So, officially, as of July 1, 2017 there were about 2.46 million people living in the Portland metro region. On a side note, the 10 Oregon cities with the largest populations as of July 1, 2017 were Portland, Salem (170,000), Eugene (169,000), Gresham (111,000), Hillsboro (107,000), Beaverton (97,500), Bend (94,500), Medford (82,000), Springfield (62,300) and Corvallis (58,000).

The Pacific University forum will afford Washington County voters the opportunity to hear directly from and ask questions of Harrington and Terry prior to the general election, the deadline of which is November 6 this year.

For more information about the 25-year history of Pacific University’s political forums go online to

Daniel Pearson

Daniel Pearson holds a bachelors in journalism and an MBA in marketing. He’s a 10-time, Oregon SPJ award-winning journalist, a two-time winner of an ADDY (advertising) for copywriting, and a one-time award winner for fiction for the NW Coastal Writer’s Series. Email: Twitter: @rosecitywriting