Washington County Endorsements: May election

By Rob Harris

Washington County Chair:

This is the only full time position on the County Commission and acts as the presiding member of Washington County Commission.  It’s a non partisan position.

  • Candidates:
    • Kathryn Harrington
    • Shabba Woodley
    • Ryan Deckert
    • Bob Terry

My pick: Ryan Deckert.    Deckert has proven executive skills and the ability to build constructive relationships with other regional leaders. If you want Washington County to continue on it’s strong economic path, veer slightly to the progressive side on social issues, and maintain strong partnerships with other regional leaders, Deckert is the best choice. Harrington is also a strong candidate, and we could use more diversity on the Commission. However, she lacks support from key county leadership and is relying on the backing of partisan Democrats. That could impair her ability to build strong transpartisan coalitions that are important for this non partisan leadership position. Deckert by the way is a former Democratic Representative from Beaverton who was known as a bridge builder while serving in the Legislature.

Washington County Commissioner Position 2

  • Candidates
    • Pam Treece
    • Greg Malinowski

My pick: Pam Treece.    Treece has had successes wherever she goes. She is energetic and engaged. Her prior executive and leadership experience makes her the best choice. Treece would also be the first woman to serve on the Washington County Commission since 2010, since Desari Strader – who also represented District 2. While I’m not a slave to quotas, I do believe that have a diverse board brings a much broader perspective to government and is extremely important. Since Strader left the Washington County Commission has been exclusively white. Exclusively male. And exclusively older.


Washington County Commissioner, Position 4

  • Candidates
    • Jerry Willey
    • Kimberly Culbertson

My pick:   Jerry Willey.    Willey was a successful Mayor of the largest city in Washington County. His knowledge of the issues facing District 4 are unmatched. He has also been a key part of metro area leadership and can bring extra gravitas to citizens in District 4.


Washington County District Attorney

  • Candidates
    • Kevin Barton
    • Max Wall

My pick for Washington County DA is  Kevin Barton.   Mr. Barton’s managerial experience and legal skills are all vastly superior to Mr. Walls.

The Washington County District Attorneys office has a reputation for being more harsh than the average Oregon prosecutors office. It’s leadership has been slow to come around to the benefits of alternative sentencing programs like drug court, mental health court, and diversion programs for first time offenders. It’s leadership has also openly feuded with Washington County Community Corrections Department. (The agency that runs probation and parole programming). And Kevin Barton is the current Chief Deputy District Attorney and has been a part of the offices leadership. However Barton and his supporters are arguing that Barton will bring a more modern and result oriented (that is, community safety over retribution) attitude to the office.

Challenger Max Wall is being backed by state and national “justice reform” organizations. Wall was a mid level prosecutor for Polk County before starting his own criminal defense practice in Beaverton recently. He has limited management experience and hasn’t really expressed what he would do to bring “justice reform” to the County prosecutors office. And those are the problems.

I have no doubt of the sincerity – and good policy – behind much of the justice reform platform that Wall represents. But remember that the Washington County District Attorneys office is the third largest prosecutors office in Oregon. Only the Oregon Attorney Generals office and Multnomah County prosecutors office are larger. Voters  need to weigh the ability of the candidates to lead a team of experienced lawyers, work closely with all the County police agencies, battle over budgets with the County Commissioners, negotiate sentencing alternatives with Judges and community corrections and work with citizen stakeholders such as victims groups.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the national and state justice reformers were unable to recruit a more experienced and well qualified candidate. But in this race, we need to balance the managerial strengths, relationships and legal acumen of Barton – and a fervent hope that he steers his office towards reformation and public safety and away from retribution – and Mr. Walls lack of preparedness for this office but good intentions.

On balance, voters will be best served by giving Mr. Barton a chance to steer the Washington County District Attorney office onto a path that emphasizes rehabilitation, sentencing based on scientifically proven criminal behavior modification techniques, equity and justice and lessens the emphasis on retribution when setting his office policies. If he doesn’t, then in four years voters may want to consider a change. And Mr. Wall will have 4 years to prove himself as a leader of the Washington County  legal community and a champion of justice reform.

Washington County Circuit Court, Position 6

  • Candidates
    • Steven Charles Burke
    • D. Charles Bailey

My pick: D. Charles Bailey:   Incumbent Judge D. Charles Bailey is being challenged by Beaverton Attorney Steven Charles Burke.  Judges are going to occasionally upset lawyers and parties that appear before them by how they set policies and procedures and by their rulings. In fact, if a Judge didn’t occasionally get criticized for an unpopular decision, you could argue that the Judge isn’t willing to buck the powers that be. Mr. Burke is a fine attorney but there is no good public policy reason to replace Judge Bailey with Mr. Burke.


About Rob Harris: I’ve lived and practiced law in Washington County for 30 years where I’ve built three successful businesses. I am now the President of the largest private general law practice based in Washington County. I’ve participated in several civic boards and advisory committees. I’ve had the opportunity to experience our local council and county chambers  and courthouses many times and interacted with many of our county leaders and activists.  I’m currently the executive director of Washington County criminal defense consortium (Private practice attorneys who accept some court appointed cases), and am on the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. I am also the co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon, Oregon’s newest major party that seeks to represents the interests of pragmatic independent Oregon voters.


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