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Wade says he accomplished his mission

November 22, 1998

James WadeBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade is leaving office satisfied that he did a good job solving the two problems which sparked him to run for office in the first place: gaming and the water and sewer debt.

He has no regrets about anything he did during his term. "It went really well," he said.

Also, he is leaving office with a different impression about county employees, which he spelled out in an electronic mail message he sent to them earlier this month. He said he came to realize while in office how dedicated and hard-working county employees are.

The message is typical Wade, who describes himself as "very forthright" and "a straight-up person." Speaking his mind sometimes led to verbal disagreements at commissioners meetings, but Wade said he always had enough respect for the other commissioners that the matter did not get out of hand.

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Wade said he decided not to seek re-election because a new job is taking up too much of his time. Wade is an operations manager at Wells Fargo.

Since he can't dedicate sufficient time to the position, he felt he should step aside and let someone replace him, he said.

The new commissioners are to be sworn in Dec. 1. He has met all of them and is impressed, he said.

Wade said he decided to run for office in 1994 because he wanted to be a part of the exciting decisions regarding the gaming and water and sewer issues.

Some county officials suggested he stay away from the gaming issue because it would be too politically complicated to ask the state legislature to change the law affecting the county gambling tax, he said.

However, he drafted and designed a proposal in which some gambling profits would go to the county for distribution to nonprofit organizations, he said. The eventual state legislation was similar to the proposal, he said.

The state legislature amended the gaming law to require bars and private clubs that sell tip jars to turn over 15 percent of their profits to the Washington County Gaming Commissioner for distribution.

Charitable organizations are expected to receive almost $1.5 million from the gaming commission in budget year 1999, up from about $1.2 million in 1998. Fire and rescue companies in the county will receive an estimated $980,000 in the budget year, up from about $750,000 this year, said Kathy Sterling, the gaming commission's director.

Wade played an instrumental role in the change, Sterling said.

"It has been a very successful program," County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

"I think it is tremendously important," Wade said. He considers it one of his biggest accomplishments in office.

The way he and the other commissioners dealt with the $53 million water and sewer debt is also something he is proud of, he said. Some day people will look back at the commissioners and give them the credit they deserve for dealing head-on with the problem, he said.

"We did what the other commissioners did not have the courage to do," he said. "We said we would fix it and we did."

However, it was also one of the hardest parts of his term since it was not much fun to attend public meetings with 600 people angry at the commission, he said.

Nobody wanted to raise the water and sewer rates but it was a necessary move, he said. It was also necessary to spend some money out of the general fund to pay off some of the debt, he said.

They also dismantled the Washington County Sewer Commission, which forced the commissioners to become accountable for the debt, he said. The sewer commission had accrued the $54 million in debt without having any means of paying for it, he said.

One of his other major accomplishments was getting the commissioners to reduce the amount of money they spent on municipal bonds from about $12 million to about $6 million annually, he said.

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