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  • Arne Mortensen

The interview of the Candidates for the vacant district 3 County Commissioner position.

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

PROLOGUE:

Politics as is typically taught and practiced is quite unnatural for me. I like to be direct, and I don’t play with people. To me it is not a one upmanship game; it is about the best solution to a defined problem. Furthermore, I don’t care much for yes people and political correctness, but I do care about honesty and the (never ending) search for truth.

This automatically handicaps me for dealings with typical politicians, whose actions often are guided by personal ambitions and a sense of hubris to the exclusion of problem solving. How do I know this? Just look at their promises and then examine the outcome. Look at the price tag that ever grows with no compassion for saddling the people today and in the future with huge debt, all the while the problems are made worse.


It is with some trepidation that I embark on explaining what happened on Monday the 27th of September 2021, at a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) of Cowlitz County. Why trepidation? Because I want to move forward with solving a problem; responding to transgressions typically makes matters worse for the issue at hand and often complicates future cooperation.


THE PROBLEM:

The problem is to pick a County Commissioner to replace the seat left vacant on 3Sept2021 by Joe Gardner. At a top level, the two remaining sitting commissioners appoint a person to finish off the term of the vacant seat. If the two cannot agree, then the decision goes to the governor. After some process, the BoCC met on the aforementioned Monday to interview in public the three leading applicants.


THE AGGRESSION:

Dennis Weber chaired the meeting and began with a monologue completely tangential to the process, except for his purpose, to bias the public regarding the candidates by casting doubts about the fairness of a process that I, Arne Mortensen, would follow. You can find the recording on KLTV Longview.


THE DECEIT:

Dennis introduced his monologue with “in the interest of transparency,” and he repeated that expression several times again … all as if he was disclosing key pertinent facts that have bearing on the issue candidate selection (and all as if he practiced that political virtue of transparency). Only a small portion of his monologue could be seen to be germane to the interview process. He sold short the public and the candidates by assuming they could not function without his guidance. Aside from presenting a jumble of irrelevant details, he indulged in statements to sway public opinion even before the candidates had a chance to say anything.

  1. What is the relevance of discussing the recent past election in which both he and I were re-elected? There is none except to influence public opinion. Dennis wants the public to believe that because he won his election by a much larger margin than I, that his choice for the appointment should carry more weight than mine. In the absence of Dennis' machinations that pollute an honest assessment, perhaps that implication would have some validity. Let's look at some pertinent facts, in the interest of transparency:

  2. Dennis won because people voted against his opponent, not for him. It is difficult to find much support for a 40 year politician who has a clear reputation for duplicity, but Dennis is a good public speaker, and his opponent had an even worse reputation.

  3. Within his own party, he was not endorsed. Because there was another republican in the race, he needed 75% of the votes of the PCOs to get endorsed. He did not even muster 50%.

  4. Both Dennis and I have had troubles with each other from the very first time I entered the county Republican Party. During the last election I campaigned against Dennis, but not for his primary opponent. Dennis supported my opponent, Will Finn, which is fine, however, he did so by feeding Mr. Finn narratives, mostly about the landfill, that he knew were false but would muddy the waters.

  5. Dennis announced that he was denied endorsement by the Cowlitz County Republican Party because Arne’s wife and daughter were Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs). PCOs determine endorsements. This was again another attempt to soil Arne’s reputation while polluting the selection process to his favor. In the interest of transparency, the facts are as follows:

  6. Arne’s wife was appointed PCO to replace a PCO who had cancer and moved out of the area. This appointment took place in 2021, long after the election process had completed.

  7. My daughter never has been a PCO. And even if she had been a PCO at that time, she would have voted as she saw fit for the benefit of the County first, and then the party. Selling people short is a common practice for Dennis. Note: There is a PCO with the name Mortensen, but she is not a family member or otherwise associated with me. I have no relatives in the County besides my wife and my daughter.

  8. I was not a PCO at that time of the vote, but Dennis was (and still is) a PCO.

SIDE NOTE - INTERVIEWING SKILLS:

Interviewing is a skill, not a science. The acceptance of style variations both in resumés as well as in presentation is key to the end of seeking the best fit. Anyone with sufficient interview and personnel management skills knows that principles and attitude frequently are the factors that determine a good hire. For most development jobs, the employee brings skills, attitude, and experience, but the specifics of the job are learned on the job. There is no specific job description for commissioner, and there are no requirements for the job other than to be elected by the people.


In practice Commissioners have power that requires wisdom for its proper use. They also face a great variety of issues, so a breadth of experience is quite helpful, including familiarity with management tools, personnel management, and the understanding of constitutional principles.


With three commissioners, there is a hope and an expectation of complementary skills. The questions should be based on what is in the submitted resumé, on what might lead one to discover the fitness for the job, and on any issues raised by the interviewee.


Interviewing, particularly in public, is stressful for the candidate, and it is a given that most people do poorly in interviews if for no other reason than the time constraint which limits really understanding the variety of individual expressions.


THE QUESTIONS:

The focus of my questions was to uncover their personal characteristics and to probe their depth of experience as guided by their resumé. I also looked for guiding principles, such as an adherence to Constitutional principles and individual rights. It is difficult to ask questions without leading the answers.


Dennis asked good questions, but he also lead the candidate with lengthy preface, thus establishing a viewpoint. Questions such as "how do you solve the homeless crisis," for several reasons, do not provide much insight into the candidate; but they do project the concept that government has the answers, and that already is a bias.


All the candidates submitted resumés that were difficult to assess because, while there were many entries, data specific to any entry was absent. Therefore, the questions were important to fill in those holes.


THE CONCLUSION:

I believe that each of the candidates would work well as commissioners, so the job of selection is not eliminating a candidate for lack of pertinence but highlighting the candidate with the greatest fit.


I think Richard Dahl is the best candidate, and I advocate for his appointment. My reasoning is as follows:

  1. He has extensive management and financial experience. He worked his way up from entry level years ago, through many corporate changes reaching his current level of Senior Vice president. He has three vice presidents reporting to him and about 200 total staff for which he is responsible.

  2. This level of responsibility is similar to that of a commissioner.

  3. It is very useful to understand budgets of this magnitude.

  4. Managing staff is an art as well as a skill, and the experience in large private organizations is a benefit to the commissioner.

  5. He is the only one who has no conflict or potential conflict of interest going forward. He declared that in any issue, the County would take precedence over commitments to his current employer. Richard Dahl will be fully retired from his current employer by the end of the year.

  6. He is the only candidate who stated during the interview that the tax payer is the most vulnerable group.

  7. This is very important because government is destroying the middle class by pandering to special interest groups

  8. Within this statement is the implication that individual rights, such as keeping what you earn, are important, while group rights don't exist.

Dennis wants to appoint Christie Masters, yet he does not refute any of the statements above. He wants to appoint Christie Masters based on pure politics. Christie and he belong to the Lower Columbia Republicans United, an organization that Dennis help found to counter-act the official Republican Party which was moving toward individual rights and individual responsibility.


EPILOGUE:

I cannot let Dennis force me to ignore my assessment of the best candidate for the county. All my actions are based on what I think serves the county best. I don't look for a "yes" person or someone to manipulate; I look for a thinker with experience and a willingness to step outside the box (given that the current box is failing us).


Will he let this decision go to the Governor to spite me; is it worth it to him to turn his back on the County for his own ego?


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