Election View: Jack Louws wants to resolve jail, EMS, water issues

Jack Louws is a candidate for Whatcom County executive.
Jack Louws is a candidate for Whatcom County executive. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The job of county executive carries significant responsibility. It’s important for voters to know the job requirements in order to choose the candidate best suited to the position. Knowledge of these duties also enables voters to grade my performance and determine if I should continue to serve as your county executive for another four years.

The county executive leads the executive branch of our local government. To paraphrase the County Charter, it’s the county executive’s job to: (a) Supervise all administrative offices and executive departments; (b) Execute and enforce all ordinances and state statutes within the county; (c) Present to the County Council an annual “state of the county” report and any other report deemed necessary; (d) Prepare and present to the County Council budgets for the next fiscal year; (e) Prepare and present to the County Council comprehensive plans including capital improvement plans for the present and future development of the county; (f) Veto any ordinance adopted by the County Council; (g) Assign duties to administrative offices and executive departments; (h) Sign or cause to be signed, on behalf of the county, all claims, deeds, contracts and other instruments; (i) Appoint members to boards and committees.

First Term Accomplishments

Over the past four years, I’ve led the resolution of many long-standing problems, all within a balanced and sustainable budget. I didn’t achieve these successes alone. I did so with the cooperation and work of other elected officials and many of the fine people who serve you in county government.

I facilitated the addition of the fourth Superior Court judge; launched the mental health court; negotiated the continuance of Medic One as a county-wide service; and led the creation of the Whatcom Unified Emergency Coordination Center.

Under my leadership, the planning department embraced LEAN principles, substantially reducing the time to issue permits.

I’ve been diligent in upgrading outdated technology to improve staff productivity and the public’s access to information.

Many of these weren’t showy or attention grabbing, just necessary for the efficient operation of your county government.

The Next Four Years

If re-elected, the most critical issue will be the jail. I look to voters to determine the direction they want to take, either by approving or defeating the jail funding initiative on the ballot. If approved, I will manage the process to construct a new facility. If defeated, we will develop plans to triage deficiencies at the existing jail.

I want to complete the data management integration of our criminal justice system and within our land use divisions of government. This consolidation of information is critical to eliminate the redundancy of data entry, further increasing workforce productivity.

We’ll need to deal with Emergency Medical Services funding challenges due to Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement reductions.

And we’ll need to continue work on water issues, both quality and quantity, as well as land use regulations to ensure that Whatcom County remains an attractive place to locate and expand businesses as well as a viable place for our farmers.

Why Re-Elect Me?

It takes mutual respect and a desire to seek common ground to be successful as county executive. I know how to get things done and have the relationships to work with leaders across the county.

I’m honored that Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville and I were awarded the Dispute Resolution Center’s Public Servant Award for our willingness and commitment to model collaborative leadership.

I’m humbled to receive the endorsement of all seven Whatcom County mayors, Lummi Nation, local farmers through the Washington State Farm Bureau PAC and the Whatcom Association of Realtors.

My wife of 35 years, Cindy, and I are life-long Whatcom County residents. We raised our family here. Now our children are putting down roots and starting their own families. We have a vested interest in making our community an even better place for future generations.

As I said in 2011, I believe my qualifications make me the best choice for the job. I still believe this to be true. I’ve proven myself to be an effective leader and demonstrated problem solver.

I appreciate the confidence voters placed in me four years ago. I want to continue working for you. I would be honored to receive your vote for county executive.


This is one of a series of commentaries from candidates in the Aug. 4 primary election. Jack Louws is the incumbent in the non-partisan election for a 4-year term as Whatcom County executive.