Dunn keeps focus on four-point plan
April 30, 2009 · Updated 12:51 PM
Editor's note: This is the second installment in a two-part profile of King County Councilman Reagan Dunn. Part one covered Dunn's early years, through his time as a federal prosecutor.
By Kevin Hanson
The lure of elective office had certainly entered Reagan Dunn's thoughts. He'd seen, first-hand, the work done by his mother, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, and he'd been exposed to the workings of party politics during his time as a federal prosecutor.
As for seeking a spot on the Metropolitan King County Council, that was something others were whispering. “I had always thought I could do it,” Dunn said, referring to county government. But, as details came to light, “I grew less and less interested in it,” he now admits.
Eventually, circumstances conspired to make a run at the county council more attractive. The key factor was Councilman Rob McKenna's decision to vacate his seat in favor of a run for state attorney general.
“It was a big risk,” Dunn said, because - simply to be considered - he had to resign his job as assistant United States attorney for the Western District of Washington. It was a rewarding job with a six-figure salary, not something he could easily step away from.
But Dunn tossed his hat into the ring, a decision that paid off when he was chosen to fill the council vacancy.
Soon, another political situation reared its head. County voters had decided to shrink the council from 13 members to nine, and Dunn's home was just inside the boundary line of the new 9th District (he had represented the 6th), meaning he and fellow councilman, and fellow Republican, Steve Hammond were living in the same district. With the fall 2005 election, one of them would have to go.
Hammond, an Enumclaw resident, received the blessing of the GOP, but Dunn sensed the makeup of the new district might be favorable and decided to challenge Hammond in the September primary election. “From a political perspective, there was a real opportunity to win,” Dunn said. And he did.
He now represents the new 9th, a sprawling district that takes in Enumclaw to the south and stretches north all the way to the edges of Bellevue and Issaquah.
Now securely ensconced in his King County office, Dunn reiterates his four key proposals. He wants to continue battling the region's methamphetamine problem, reduce congestion of state Route 169 (which stretches between Enumclaw and Renton), develop a landowners' bill of rights and continue reforming county government.
“It drives my staff crazy,” he said of his focus on those four key issues. They constantly bring other matters to the table, he said, but he refuses to get wrapped up in other matters. “I'm a big believer in doing a few things really well,” Dunn said. “I'll keep my focus narrow for as long as it takes.”
Here's a quick review of Dunn's priorities:
The meth situation has far-reaching implications, Dunn said, as drug users commit crimes to feed their addiction and social services have to deal with families impacted by drug use.
He has spearheaded Meth Watch, which identifies fugitives running from drug crimes and uses the media to spread the word. The program has had early success and Dunn hopes to see the program implemented statewide.
He points out that Washington has 20 percent more meth labs than California and twice as many as neighboring Oregon, though there has been a “subtle decline” in the number of labs uncovered recently.
State Route 169 is a key roadway in Dunn's district when it comes to keeping people on the go, and he's committed to widening the road, adding turn lanes - whatever it takes to keep traffic flowing.
The problem isn't so bad at the southern end (Enumclaw), Dunn admits, but it gets worse as drivers head through Four Corners and Maple Valley and continue toward Renton. His No. 1 priority had been Coal Creek Parkway but, once money was earmarked for improvements there, Dunn shifted his emphasis to 169.
When it comes to landowners' rights, Dunn is quick to criticize the county's Critical Areas Ordinance, a piece of legislation that was generally blasted by rural residents but pushed by those representing Seattle and suburban interests.
Dunn calls the CAO “an unconstitutional taking of land by the county” because it places so many limitations on what property owners can do, without compensating them for their loss. As a temporary step, Dunn favors “tax credits for those adversely affected by the CAO.”
Dunn also supports adding a new county position, that of a rural ombudsman. The person chosen would act as a liaison between the highest level of county government and King County's rural population.
With regard to changing the way King County does its business, Dunn said he's close to unveiling a series of reforms. “Some of these are going to be pretty profound,” he said, balking at the offer to provide details.
He expects opposition to some of his ideas. But, “I wasn't elected to be a ‘yes man' for the existing establishment,” Dunn said.
Dunn's name is on the list of frequently-mentioned rising stars in the Republican Party, but he won't get drawn into a discussion of what his political future might hold.
Instead, Dunn said he hopes his future includes “getting really good at this job, getting married and raising a family.”
A self-described “avid sportsman,” Dunn favors bow hunting and fly fishing during his time away from the office. When he's on the clock, he said, “I just get an enormous amount of satisfaction from helping people out.”
Kevin Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.