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District 1: Andrew Lampe

Andrew Lampe, 54, is in his seventh year on the Okanogan County Commission and currently serves as it chairman. He says he’s not yet decided whether to seek another term.

A native of Othello, Washington, Lampe has been living in the county “on and off” since 1982. Formerly part owner of a family retail jewelry firm, he’s now part owner of a rock and landscaping business in Omak. He had no experience holding government office before he was elected to the commission. He attended junior college, where he studied agricultural pesticides and logging practices, but did not obtain a degree. He and his wife Debbie live in Omak; they have four grown children.

Lampe says he decided to run for county commissioner at a time when there was considerable public dissent regarding the commission. He thought he could do better than the incumbent he unseated, rancher Craig Vejraska, says Lampe. (Vejraska had advocated that the county ignore a new state law that prohibited cougar hunting with hounds and proposed that commissioners sidestep the law by declaring a state of emergency meant to allow hound hunting to continue.)

The biggest ongoing problem facing the county (leaving aside effects of the state’s budget shortfall that in a worst-case scenario may trim $500,000 from the county’s budget) is updating its 1965 comprehensive plan, says Lampe. The commissioners have been “trying to figure out where the county is going as far as land use” since 2007, when the revision process began. Though huge in land mass, the county is too small in population to be required to abide by the more stringent Growth Management Act. But when its population reaches 50,000 and it has had a 20 percent population increase over the preceding decade, GMA provisions will kick in.

The Okanogan County Commission for years has complained that the federal government and the state - particularly the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns two percent of Okanogan County - are setting aside too much county land for wildlife habitat. When in 2010 the Methow Watershed Project was awarded a $4.5 million federal grant meant to secure 3,025 acres of habitat for 23 at-risk species, for example, the commissioners threatened litigation. They complained they were not consulted about the transaction.

Lampe says state and federal incursions onto the county’s land base affect its growth and development patterns  – 75 percent of its land base is owned by the federal and state government or tribes. He’s concerned that the state may designate more state-owned lands within the county as critical habitat for endangered species, which could curtail uses such as cattle grazing on those lands.

Wolf recovery is the hot button issue that has the commissioners butting heads with the state over its wolf management plans. They have requested that the wolf be removed from Endangered Species Act protections. “We don’t feel that they are in need of this endangered species recognition because they are fairly robust throughout the West,” says Lampe.

What’s Lampe most proud of as commissioner? “The hardest and the best is the fact that we tackled the update of the 1965 comprehensive plan. We’re doing it in-house without the money to hire consultants.”

County planning director Perry Huston, the former Kittitas County commissioner hired in 2007 to lead the planning effort, was brought on board because of his experience in taking Kittitas County through its Growth Management Act comprehensive plan development, according to Lampe, who adds:  “He brought a valuable insight.” But in July, the State Supreme Court, in a landmark case, ruled that Kittitas County had violated state law by failing to protect its agricultural lands and said its comprehensive plan did not comply with state water law.

What does Lampe think is the most important unfinished business of the commission? “I’d like to see us finish up the comp plan and finish the Shoreline Master Program and move into zoning and try to get a little bit ahead of the curve” in managing the county’s growth, he says.

photo of commissioner hover
He became motivated to run for office after the National Marine Fisheries Service decided to target Methow irrigators . . .



photo of commissioner detro
“My one over-riding concern is wolves,” says DeTro. “I’ve taken a lot of flak over the wolf issue. I don’t want to eradicate them.”



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