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Senate candidate visits Grand Coulee

 

Candidate Jon Wyss, left, talks with Roy Hamilton after speaking at the chamber of commerce Thursday. - Scott Hunter photo

A candidate running for Sen. Linda Evans Parlette's 12th District seat in the Washington State Legislature visited Grand Coulee Thursday, speaking to members of the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jon Wyss, who has been a Gebbers Farms executive for 11 years, said he visits Grand Coulee often from Brewster to get his vehicle's oil changed at Jess Ford.

He's running in the primary against Brad Hawkins, who has represented the 12th District in the state House of Representatives since 2013. Both are Republican.

Wyss has chaired the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Effort, which he said has surpassed its goal of raising funds to recover from the wildfires of 2014 and 2015, bringing in some $170 million to help restore the county, including tribal lands. He said because of that team's work, some 50 homes, all that were lost to the fires in Okanogan County, will be rebuilt, all with private donations.

He said the organization is now the new model for any disaster in the United States, after he told the Federal Emergency Management Agency that their plan would not work here.

"They wanted us to run our recovery efforts like we were New Orleans," he said, with a model designed for a dense population and area. But the perimeter of the 2014-15 fires combined is as far around as the trip from Denver to Washington, D.C.

"If you stand up and voice your opinion, you can get things done, and done right," he said. "That's why I wanted to run for senate."

He said working with the government for over 20 years qualifies him for the job.

He said he would do that referring to the "three Cs": conscience first, then constituents, then caucus.

Wyss said the 12th District's biggest challenge is transportation infrastructure, including rail and roads.

Addressing health care in rural areas is also a looming problem, with balancing the Affordable Care Act's expiring federal subsidies against the high proportion of rural residents dependent on Medicaid that it pays for.

He said that's "an unfunded mandate from the feds" that will be pitted for resources against the McCleary Decision, in which the Washington Supreme Court has ordered the state to pay more for education.

Balancing traditional agriculture with growing tourism is another area of concern, he said.

Dealing with fires is another, with the district experiencing four huge fires in the last six years. He said getting the damaged timber to a market while it's still a viable product is a problem.

"I'm ready for all those things, to go figure it out," he said.

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