by Richard Uhlhorn
Three highly diverse individuals are in an election battle for the District 3 Chelan County Commission seat currently held by the retiring Doug England. All three of the candidates joined a Community Forum at Riverwalk Park on Wednesday evening, July 8, to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions prepared by the Manson Chamber of Commerce who hosted the forum.
An estimated 50 interested residents joined the forum but socially distanced themselves on the hillside in front of the Riverwalk Pavilion.
Following is a short biography of each candidate and where they stand on several issues facing the County now and in the future.
Dale England is the current incumbent’s brother and is a fourth generation native of the Lake Chelan Valley. Dale has worked within the local agricultural business all of his life and has worked all aspects of the family’s orchard.
England also had a 25 plus year career as a Chelan County Sheriff’s Deputy. Over that period he served honorably with both the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department and the Chelan/Douglas County Drug Task Force.
He has launched two businesses; Custom Orchard Fumigation Services and the popular Lake Chelan Helicopter Service serving agriculture and tourism industries. England has also volunteered for over 35 years and earned the Kiwanis Citizen of the Year and Kiwanian of the Year awards for his involvement.
Tiffany Gering is also a North Central Washington native from Brewster. She currently serves as the Sales Manager and Chief Operating Officer for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce. Prior to her Chamber employment, Gering worked as a sales person at KOZI Radio Station.
Gering is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University and holds a degree in Business Administration.
Gering moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college and worked in the movie industry for several years before returning to NCW and working as KOZI’s Sales Manager for seven years and the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce for the last five years.
She is the mother of two girls, both of whom were prenatal babies. The family spent a number of months in Spokane at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and now have two healthy girls who she says give her a run for her money every day.
Gering is a Rotarian and has been on a mission trip to Mexico, a chaperoning trip for High School students on a South Korean trip for Rotary International and a Me to We and Lake Chelan Rotary trip to Kenya.
Brandt Cappell is a Senior Legislative Assistant to Representative Keith Goehner and worked for ex-Representative Cary Condotta for nine years. Cappell graduated from Wenatchee High School and has a Batchelor Degree from Washington State University in Natural Resource Police and Political Science.
Prior to his legislative career, he worked on a local cherry orchard for a number of years. He is interested in local control over state control because he feels the state government doesn’t understand the issues on the ground in North Central Washington.
Cappell belongs to the Wenatchee Confluence Rotary and the Washington Coastal Conservation Association. He lives in Wenatchee with his family.
Each candidate was asked how they would enforce Short Term Rental (STR) issues and lower the percentage of STRs from the current 12 percent in Manson and Leavenworth to the desired five percent?
Dale England replied that he does believe STRs are a problem and feels they should not be allowed in residential neighborhoods. “They should be registered and have to pay a fee which would go for enforcement,” said England. “It is important that neighborhoods have the peace and quiet they deserve.”
Tiffany Gering said that she has been attending all of the Chelan County Planning meetings on STRs and does feel that there needs to be a cap on the number of units available. “I don’t know if five percent is the number we shoot for,” she said. She also stated that the Sheriff’s Department would be taking over enforcement and that Sheriff Brian Burnett is down six to eight deputies.
Gering stated that there was a $36 noise fine, but that isn’t enough. “It needs to be around $500 for both the owner and renters,” Gering said. “It is a nightmare for many people.”
Brandt Cappell said he would propose a moratorium so the STR problem doesn’t get any worse. “It is a serious problem and we need lesser density,” said Cappell who also stated that other cities have a good track record for compliance and enforcement on these issues. “There are folks that should be compliant but aren’t. We have the regulations that aren’t being enforced.” Cappell also said the property rights falls into the equation.
The next question concerned the Right to Farm issue.
Cappell said, “Agriculture is the backbone of this county. People moving here may have a different perspective.” He added that new residents need to understand the Right to Farm issues which includes spray drift and other farming issues that bother people who haven’t lived in an agricultural area.
Cappell also said that the County needs to make sure that there is adequate housing for agricultural workers. “We need to have regulations that support the Right to Farm,” said Cappell.
England said that growing up on a farm and managing a farm, he has been dealing with regulations that are driven by the Federal and State Government. “Chelan County needs to be in a position to help farmers,” said England. He mentioned the H2A program that farmers can use, but smaller farms have difficulty using it because of the regulations. “The Commissioners can encourage more cooperation from the State and Feds.”
Gering stated that there were so many State regulations that Farm Worker Housing is an issue with small farmers. “I think the Commission needs to work on more incentives for farmers,” said Gering.
Small Businesses are having a hard time because of the pandemic. The candidates were asked what they would do.
Gering said that the County needs more money and that the pandemic is not a one size fits all issue. “We have one restaurant in Chelan that won’t open until we hit Phase 3 because it just isn’t economical to open at 25 percent capacity,” she said. Gering said the County was allocated with $920,000 and is interested in seeing what they do with those funds.
Cappell said he is very upset with what is going on. “It is important for Chelan County to advocate for local control.” He commented on the fact that the State turned down the County’s request to move to a 1.5 phase in 12 hours after the initial proposal was sent in.
“We saw the big box stored open while small businesses remained closed. It was not an equality issue. We need to do what we need to do for our community,” said Cappell.
England remarked that the County has never encountered a situation like the pandemic. “We cannot afford to have someone not in our area making decisions for us,” said England. He also said the opening up of the County needs to not just benefit businesses but the community as a whole.
England said affordable housing is tied in with STRs and that young adults who would like to return to the Valley can’t find affordable property and/or housing which he feels needs to change.
Cappell added that affordable housing was an issue, but that 85% of the land in Chelan County is owned by the government. He also stated that 180 days to get a permit to build a deck was ridiculous and most people just end up building without a permit. “I would like to see the GMA (Growth Management Act) brought back to the County level,” said Cappell.
Gering said she feels affordable housing needs to happen at the ground level and that the County needs to change some of the codes for more density.
In their final closing comments Gering said she is passionate about helping with issues regarding mental health and health care in the County. Cappell remarked his interest is in transportation and serving on the Board of Health while England is interested in law enforcement issues, mental health and transportation.
Asked if they would quit their regular jobs all three said that while the County Commissioner position is supposed to be a part time job they all recognize it as a full time job. “The office requires a (serious) commitment,” said England. The only job England would retain would be the family orchard. The helicopter and other business interests would go. “My commitment would be the community.”
Cappell said the job is a full time job. “I have no issues of working hard or working late,” said Cappell. “Chelan County’s District 3 is a big District that stretches from 5th Avenue in Wenatchee to Wells Dam.”
Gering said she was ready to hit the ground running and would also step down from her current jobs.
All three said they would be committed to serving the community and would always be available to their constiuents.