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At the end of the day, the purpose of every public organization should be to improve the quality of life for the citizens it serves. But far too often, it seems that the politicians and bureaucrats in government agencies prioritize pet projects over their residents’ needs.

Throughout my careers in both the public and private sector, I’ve placed an emphasis on customer service. It’s the same approach I intend to take as the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

Customer service was critical back when I was owning and operating businesses. My husband and I ran a historic bed and breakfast hospitality site in Molalla. We always made sure that our customers received the experience that they expected and were happy with the service we provided them.

In the private sector, failure to meet customers’ expectations usually means having to close your doors. If you raise your prices too high, customers will take their business elsewhere. If you aren’t responsive to what your customers want, you won’t have any more of them.

Somehow, people in the public sector often have a completely different attitude. They seem to forget that they are there to serve the public, and not the other way around.

As a longtime resident of Clackamas County, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the level and quality of service being provided by those who are supposed to be leading us. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m running for commission chair.

Residents’ quality of life is eroding in many key areas. To put it simply, Portland’s problems seem to be making their way over to Clackamas County, with the tacit encouragement of our county board of commissioners and its chair. Instead of focusing taxpayer resources on solutions that could solve some of those problems, our county politicians are demanding more taxes be paid to them and other organizations like Metro. No private business would survive by conducting itself that way.

Take transportation, for example. The county has a big backlog of roads that need to be better maintained. Good customer service would dictate that the county start fixing potholes. Commute times continue to grow as Portland area traffic gets worse over time. Are there any plans to build new roads? Sadly, there are not. It isn’t even being discussed. And given current county political leadership, I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

The answer to our road quality and traffic problems isn’t to continue pouring billions of dollars into inefficient light rail systems that most residents don’t use and never will. It isn’t to charge residents tolls to drive on existing roads that their tax dollars have already paid for. Not only is that a failure of leadership, but it’s bad customer service. Clackamas County residents deserve better than that.

County leadership needs to do a better job of being responsive to citizens’ concerns, rather than viewing them as sources of additional revenue. As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I intend to put the customer service of county residents at the forefront of every decision I make.

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