Jeff Harkins

(candidate for 2004 Latah County Commissioner, district 2)

1. The Latah County Commissioners are responsible for the operation of Latah County and management of its employees. What training and experience do you have to successfully manage this county government, including the budget, risk management, human resources, and communications responsibilities?
In addition to my deep commitment to maintaining the quality lifestyle we all enjoy in Latah County, a commitment that has accrued over 17 years of living in the County and 25 years on the Palouse, my background and broad range of experience leads me to believe that I can successfully serve as a Latah County Commissioner. I have worked in direct management, consulted in the public sector, and many years of experience in higher education. My credentials include:

Elected Positions
Served as President of Idaho Society of CPA's
Served as President of the Palouse Lions Club
Served as member of City Council of Palouse, WA

Professional Positions:
Served as Department Head of the Accounting Program at UI for eight years, managing budget and personnel.
Conducted numerous professional development programs in governmental management including budgeting, risk management and financial reporting.
Consulted with numerous Idaho and Washington governmental entities over the past 25 years Taught Governmental Accounting and Reporting for over 30 years

Education and Professional Certification
Earned the CPA designation in both Idaho and Washington
Earned Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree and PhD in Accounting

My complete resume is available at If you have questions or additional information, please contact me.

2. Should the Commissioners do more to help complete the Latah Trail? If so, what?
The Latah Trail has the potential to be an important asset for Latah County and deserves the support of all of our elected officials. However, this is the sort of project that should not be supported through general tax revenues unless the Latah County voters have specifically approved and endorsed such expenditures for the Trail. For me, the reasons are pretty straight forward.

General tax revenues should be used to support the general operations of the County. There are many "special" operations funded at the County level that are outside of the "general operations" area, including the Library District, Historical Society, Noxious Weeds, Fair Fund, Junior College Fund, Indigent Fund, etc. These activities are managed as "Special Revenue-type" and/or Trust Fund type activities whereby revenues are restricted to support those activities.

Every community, including Latah County, has numerous projects and activities that are of interest to a specific group of citizens. If all such projects were funded from general tax revenues, it would likely create a tax burden that would be impossible to fund. Thus, communities and community leaders must find ways to prioritize the wants and needs of the citizens and fund those that emerge as the highest priorities.

In general, in Latah County, I do not support having the County Commissioners select which of those projects to fund. With only three members on the County Commission, it requires only two (2) commissioners to choose funded projects. This can lead to choices that might not reflect the preferred interests of the general community. The failed bond election for a new County Courthouse two years ago is a good example. Had the county commissioners not been required to obtain pubic approval for the bond issue, the project would have moved forward. Fortunately, public approval is required for the issue of bonds The public rejected the Courthouse Remodel Bond Levy by a two-thirds majority. In recent years, other levies have failed including the fairgrounds remodel project. At a minimum, these levy failures point to the fact that elected officials are not often clear on the voters' priorities. The Latah Trail is a project that will impact and most likely provide benefits for a majority of Latah County residents. And as such, if residents recognize this, they will support further investments in the Trail.

However it is important to not lose sight of the overall scope of the Latah Trail and the role that Commissioners can play in its development. Let's assume that the Latah Trail has been designated as a project that should move forward. The Commissioners can do a great deal to promote the completion of the Latah Trail without significant tax resources being used. As a Commissioner, I would explore alternative funding venues including additional development grants and private donations. Local service clubs (e.g., Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis) can also be asked to help. Other community service organizations can become involved - youth groups, seniors, environmental groups, college groups, etc.

Getting lots of people involved in the development and completion of the Trail Project may be more important for the long-term success of the Trail than just getting the Trail completed. Because, once the Trail is completed, it will be necessary to address the long-term management of the Trail including security and safety concerns, repair and maintenance and long-term management (e.g., who gets to use for special events - running events, biking events, skating events, etc.) of the trail. The result is that the more folks that were involved in the building of the Trail makes more folks vested to help in the long-run management of the Trail.

In talking with rural county residents, a significant issue for them is the question of safety and security for folks living near the trail. While it is probably unlikely that there will be significant security issues, the question must be addressed, as well as the safety and security issues for trail users. Security costs and other long-term maintenance issues could impact county finances in a significant way. Since it appears that it is often difficult for us to maintain or improve our roads adequately (due primarily to inadequate funding), I think the long-term maintenance of the trail may be problematic and needs to be addressed as a part of a long-range strategic plan for managing the Trail.

I do support the Trail and I want to see it completed. And, as a Commissioner, I would work hard to identify ways to complete the project. But I would not vote to use General Fund revenues for completion of the Trail unless a public referendum approved that expenditure.

3. Rural businesses may require a Conditional Use Permit to operate, and the decision to grant that permit is often made by the Commissioners. If rural neighbors object to the business, how would you decide whether or not to grant the permit? What are the important criteria for you and how do you balance the rights of the business and the neighbors?
This is a very important question. Conditional Use Permits, variances, land rezoning and land use are decisions that should be guided by the provisions and protocols of the Comprehensive Long-Range Plan, which should be a reflection of the desires of the residents of Latah County.

Over the last few years, the Commissioners have deemed it necessary to make decisions as exceptions to the existing long-range plan, thereby compromising one or more standards or elements of the plan. We have learned over time that these decisions to make exceptions have consequences, the primary and most egregious being that the exception now becomes the rule. When exceptions are no longer rare occurences, they tend to feed into expectations. In my view, exceptions should only be made when the need for the exception is genuinely "exceptional." Decisions made by public officials have consequences; decisions matter.

Recent decisions on Conditional Use and Land Use Rezoning have signaled to me that the current long-range plan is not an effective guide for public decisions. If I am elected, I will spearhead an initiative to prepare a new and/or revised comprehensive long-range plan for Latah County, one that integrates the diverse demands and interests of our residents.

One component of long-range planning that must be given the most careful thought, consideration and scrutiny is the delineation of the vision, goals and objectives for the County. And it is this component that must be made, first, by the voters of Latah County. It is time for Latah County voters to consider, deliberate and define what we want Latah County to be. We all have a vision and we need to find the common thread that will weave the future of our home. It would be a great and humbling honor to help to lead that process.

We have had several years of modest growth activity with housing developments, commercial activity and road construction that has reshaped living climates, population density, traffic patterns and quality of life. Without a restated vision of what we want Latah County to be and the quality of life we want for ourselves, we can expect county decisions to continue to be challenged by the current long-range plan, and in many cases (e.g., rock pits and land rezoning) decided as a precedent to the plan.

The only effective way to deal with the growth pressures and the decisions that result from those pressures is for Latah County residents to provide elected officials with guidance as to their preferred living and economic goals and objectives.

4. In July, Commissioner Paul Kimmell excused himself from the decision-making regarding the setting of property tax exemptions for Christ Church and New St. Andrews College, since he had worked as a real estate consultant for the church, was a church member, and was a member of the college advisory board. Do you have any similar ties to local organizations that would lead you to excuse yourself for a similar conflict of interest if that organization sought a property tax exemption?
No, I do not.

A complete listing of my community activities and interests can be found at my website - It is my intent to retire from my faculty position at the University of Idaho in January, 2005. Thus, while I expect to maintain contact with my colleagues at the campus and to be involved with supporting and advancing the interests of this fine institution, I would not expect to face any conflicts as a result of my tenured history with the campus.

My spouse and I do not own or operate any commercial enterprises in Latah County and as a result have no direct or perceived conflicts of interest arising from such ventures.

Further, should any conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest arise, I would acknowledge that conflict and recuse myself from the decision.

5. How do you plan to use email, websites, or any other communication tools to inform residents about county programs or to gather input from those residents?
Please include biographical information about yourself, email, phone, or website contact information, and any other message you want to share with county voters.
Email, website and other personal contact is always encouraged.

I invite you to contact me with any questions, concerns or issues.

6. Please include biographical information about yourself, email, phone, or website contact information, and any other message you want to share with Moscow voters.
I am running for Latah County Commissioner because after living in the Palouse for 25 years, I have a deep appreciation and love for the environment that is offered here. It has been a wonderful place to share with my wife, Deb, and raise my daughter, Katie. The people of the Latah County are among the finest I have known. The County has provided us with the opportunity to enjoy a full and rewarding life. I want to do what I can to assure that all of our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to enjoy a life that is just as bountiful as that we have enjoyed ourselves.

At present, we face some difficult challenges, including the financial problems with UI, stress with funding for public education and the pressures of a challenged local economy. I believe that I have the skills and the motivation to help to resolve these challenges.

I want you to know that I am committed to the following values and principles and will bring these with me if you elect me as Latah County Commissioner. First, all government should be accountable to the folks that live in the area served by that government. Second, government should exercise fiscal discipline in all its activities. It should always recognize that government is using its citizens' money (that they would certainly have other uses for) and should exercise scrutiny and sound judgment in developing and managing budgets. Third, elected officials should emulate a standard for honesty and integrity, always mindful that they are the elected "representatives" of the residents of the County. Fourth, Commissioners should always reflect carefully on the issues they are deciding, remembering that "decisions matter" and that decisions have consequences. There is no substitute for common sense!

Please contact me if you have questions. I would appreciate and would benefit from your help. If you are interested in a yard sign or would like to provide other kinds of support, please contact me directly.

Jeff L. Harkins

Email: or
Phone: 208-882-9170

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