MOSES LAKE - Candidates for Grant County commissioner presented their views on economic and social issues facing the county during a public candidate's forum held Monday night at the Moses Lake Museum and Art Center.
Incumbent Grant County Commissioner Carolann Swartz highlighted the importance of economic development and tourism in the area during the forum.
Her opponent, James Liebrecht, was out of town on a prior commitment. However, he had his son James Liebrecht Jr. read a statement on his behalf.
According to the statement, Liebrecht will focus on the county's public defense system and balancing the budget if he is elected.
"I want to make a difference," he said in his statement. "I think I can bring a connection between city and county."
Liebrecht said he will make public defense a priority if elected. Taxpayer money is often wasted when trials get deferred or criminals receive lighter sentences, he said in his statement.
When those convicted of crimes end up back on the street to commit crimes again, the county's residents are at a disadvantage, Liebrecht said.
"We have to ensure our citizens have justice," said Liebrecht.
Liebrecht also said overtaxing Grant County residents wasn't the solution to balancing the county's budget.
"I'm deeply rooted in our community and only wish to see its people prosper," read Liebrecht's statement.
Swartz said she is very interested in continuing to work on developing the county's economy if she is re-elected.
Creating a larger, more diverse job sector will benefit the county for years to come, she said.
"We're exporting our greatest resources, our young workers and our children," she said. "If we don't have jobs for them, they are going to go to Seattle, to Portland and elsewhere, where there are jobs."
Swartz stressed the importance of attracting new businesses to the area, as well as enhancing the agricultural community that is already here. She said the biggest challenge the county has is attracting new and diverse businesses.
"Our challenge is to make the world know that we are open for business," she said. "I'm enthusiastic about it."
Tourism can also play a role in improving the area's economy, she said.
"We have such assets in our county, so many waterways, so many vistas and so many wonderful towns and venues," said Swartz. "We're wide open for business."
She said facilities like the Gorge Amphitheater have the potential to draw visitors to Grant County. Money they spend while they're in the area benefit the entire county, said Swartz.
"It's an industry that's huge, and I encourage it," she said.