More straight talk with Tom Mielke

I spoke with Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke the other day for a good amount of time on a story I have coming up.

The interview took maybe five minutes. Then we talked about the mysteries of governing for maybe an extra 15 minutes. Specifically, we talked about his two problem children: Commissioners David Madore and Steve Stuart.

In 2014, Mielke is likely to take over as chair of the board. Despite what Madore might threaten, the chair position actually rotates each year by district. There is a vote involved, but it’s largely for process.

But since Mielke would need Madore and Stuart to actually agree on something to make this process go smoothly, he’s being cautious.

“Well I think I’m going to be chair,” Mielke said.

Mielke says he hopes as chair he can maybe end some of the infighting on the board. The chair is responsible for running the meetings, and has a bit more authority based purely on respect.

So the idea is Mielke is going to try and play peacemaker between Madore and Stuart. Because, as he puts it, “those two seem to irritate one another.”

This is no secret. We’ve written about it a bunch. And Mielke has made many, many efforts to stop the two of them from engaging in heated debates.

Still, whatever plan he has to help the pair get along is likely going to be counteracted by the momentum of a potential reelection bid by Stuart, which is likely to see an opponent backed by Madore.

But I will say Mielke has been rather calm and collected this past year when dealing with the situation, so maybe there is hope.

After all, one of the few things Madore and Stuart are likely to agree on is voting in favor of Mielke as chair.

If that happens, Mielke has another goal he’d like to tackle.

“I’d like to change public comment to Clark County public comment,” Mielke said. “Not about the federal government and not about the state. Comment about Clark County.”

I asked him what that means for the commissioners dealing with things such as the Columbia River Crossing. That’s a state and federal project, and not a county project. And the commissioners have taken a stance on twice.

Mielke saw where I was coming from and said he’d like to see such issues limited to just items the commissioners deal with as part of their role on the C-Tran board.

“Bottom line is we don’t need to be a sounding board,” Mielke said. “I don’t have control over the state or federal issues.”

But what about the personal attacks during public comment that Mielke has long lamented? Is he going to try to reign those in?

“Oh, we’re always going to hear from the people what they have to say on us,” Mielke said, chuckling a bit.

Erik Hidle

Erik Hidle

Erik Hidle covers Clark County government for The Columbian. He can be followed on facebook at, on Twitter at @col_clarkgov or contacted by email at

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