Elect Jim Cooper

Cooper is Clear Choice at League of Women Voters Forum

Jim is the clear choice for County Commissioner from District 1. Check out this Thurston County League of Women Voters forum taped at Thurston Community Media on September 24,2016.  

Cooper stands out at Chamber Candidate Forum

on 9/14 2016 the Thurston County Chamber held a candidate forum with the candidates for County Commissioner Districts 1&2.  Watch Jim below beginning around 28 minutes.  

Cooper Endorsed by Progressive Voters Guide

Cooper Endorsed by FUSE Progressive Voters Guide 

Re-posted below in full. 

"Jim Cooper

Army veteran, United Way CEO, and Olympia City Councilman Jim Cooper is running in the crowded race for the open District 1 seat on the Thurston County Commission. Cooper wants to ensure smart growth policies are implemented as more people move to Thurston and will focus on the health and safety of all residents. On the city council, Cooper has worked to preserve parks and open spaces as well as helped lead a sustainable budgeting process. 

Cooper faces former conservative Tenino police chief John Hutchings, who was ousted from his job for overstepping authority and working hours beyond what taxpayers were able to pay. For his leadership and experience making Thurston County a better place to live, Cooper deserves your vote.


Economic Justice: WA Federation of State Employees
Other: Thurston Environmental Voters, Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council, UFCW Local 367


Five Candidates Vie for One County Commission Seat

Published in the Nisqually Valley News on July 22, 2016. Read what they wrote about Jim below the full article is linked here.  

Five Candidates Vie for One County Commission Seat

By Graham Perednia [email protected] | Posted: Friday, July 22, 2016 4:27 pm

The contested elections on this ballot for voters in Yelm and Rainier areas are Legislative District 2 Senator and Representative position 2. At the county level, the contested election is for County Commissioner District 1 (last week the Nisqually Valley News profiled the legislative races).   

On the county side of the election, two of the biggest issues are the Mazama pocket gopher as it impacts development, and the proposed septic system tax. Balancing the budget and spurring economic growth are also focus of many candidates.

Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election must be postmarked by Aug. 2 or be dropped in one of the 26 ballot drop off boxes in the county by 8 p.m. Aug. 2.

County Commissioner District 1...

...Jim Cooper, D-Olympia

Jim Cooper, 41, said he is running for county commissioner because he wants to make sure Thurston County is a place where people can raise a family.

“I look to my 4-year-old daughter Maggie for inspiration,” he said. “Working to make Thurston County a better place to live for Maggie, her friends and the generations to follow her, is how I will approach the job. We must consider the long-term in all we do.”

During his first term in office, Cooper said he wants to create opportunities for everyone to thrive in the county. He said he wants to recruit living wage jobs in Thurston County and provide strong social services to help those who are struggling.

“In my work at United Way we studied the financial struggles families face in the Pacific Northwest, and found across the region more than one-third of our community members are struggling to get by,” Cooper said. “In some Thurston County communities that number rises to 40 or 50 percent of our neighbors who are literally one broken down car or appliance away from not being able to feed their families or possibly losing their home.”

Cooper said he wants to make sure everyone interacting with the county government has the same high level of customer service.

“Regardless of where you access county government, whether a restaurant inspection, interacting with the justice system or filing a document for recording, you should have the same high-level customer service experience,” he said. “I will work to increase our county customer service so it is easier to navigate and more accessible to everyone.”

Cooper said the plan for the pocket gopher should be balanced between conservation and growth.

“The final plan should provide maximum predictability for landowners. By having the county negotiate the details of habitat conservation and mitigation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, landowners will save money and decrease the burden they face if they were to negotiate individually with the federal government,” he said. “It is important the county work with affected property owners to find creative solutions that will protect the environment and provide reasonable development opportunities.”

Cooper also supports the proposed septic system tax. He said it is a way to protect the environment.

“The proposed update to the county OSS management plan is based on sound science and best practices. The goals set are strong, and coupled with the new fee schedule, attainable. In fact, the new plan will reduce the costs of operating and licensing a septic system for the vast majority of property owners in the county over time,” he said. “Because it is a fee, the money must be used to implement the OSS management plan and cannot be used to balance the general fund budget. With the proper citizen and commissioner oversight the new plan is a win-win for the environment and people of Thurston County.”

Cooper has served on the Olympia City Council for four and a half years. He has also been a member of or participated in numerous policy, political and community organizations, and is an Army veteran.

He and his wife of 15 years have lived all over the nation, but moved back to Thurston County in 2004."...Read the rest of the article at

Five vying for a spot on the Thurston County Commission

Published by The Olympian on 7/24/2016 linked here.

Five vying for a spot on the Thurston County Commission

  • Job comes with a $111,600 annual salary
  • Agriculture, economic development are top issues
  • Aug. 2 primary will winnow field to two, who will advance to the Nov. 8 general election


[email protected]

Thurston County voters may see a little of themselves among the five candidates vying for the County Commissioner District No. 1 seat in the primary election.

There’s a veteran, a retired public servant, a lawyer, a Ramtha student who lived off the grid for more than a decade, and a South County ranch owner who has wrangled with county officials over land-use issues.

During a recent public forum at Tenino Middle School, all of the candidates said they are passionate about protecting the environment, keeping agriculture a viable local industry, and boosting economic development across the county. But each one has a different plan for how to manage those critical Thurston County issues.

Only voters who live in District No. 1 — which runs through the central portion of the county and includes Tenino, rural Rainier, Olympia and Johnson Point — can vote in the primary for the race, which will choose two candidates for the November ballot. About 57,400 voters are registered in that district, according to Valerie Walston with the Thurston County Auditor’s Office.

In the Nov. 3 general election, voters across the county will vote for Commissioner District No. 1, which is currently held by Cathy Wolfe, as well as Commissioner District No. 2, a position that is held by Sandra Romero. Both Wolfe and Romero are retiring.

The candidates for Romero’s seat, former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards, who is running without a party affiliation, and Democrat Kelsey Hulse, are automatically advancing to the general election.

Both seats have an annual salary of $111,600.

In District 1, Democrat Jim Cooper, 41, is chief executive officer of the United Way of the Pacific Northwest, a trade association of the United Way organizations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. He has served on the Olympia City Council since 2011, and is chairman of its finance committee. He is an Army veteran.

If elected, Cooper said he wants to work to make Thurston County government more transparent and effective.

“I don’t see any reason why the Thurston County government shouldn’t have as high level of customer service as a Hilton Hotel,” Cooper said. “Right now when you look at county government, it’s very hard to navigate. It’s very hard even when you walk in the building to know where you need to go.”

Cooper said he wants to help retain local agriculture by creating tax incentives to bring new farms and ag-related businesses into the area. He also supports relocating the fairgrounds to south county.

“We can better promote agriculture if it’s closer to real farms and ranches, rather than surrounded by houses,” Cooper said. “A larger rural fairgrounds would bring a multitude of options, if we could figure out how to do it together.”

Diane Dondero, 66, of Rainier describes herself as the “people’s candidate.”

“So why would you vote for me?” the Democrat said at the forum in Tenino. “I am you. … I lived for 13 years in the mountain wilderness where I raised my family, beyond power poles and all of the conveniences of life.”

Dondero is a retired in-home care provider. She moved to the rural Rainier area about 27 years ago to attend Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm.

She’s never run for political office before. Dondero said she wants to work toward creating a new way of life that does away with the oil-based economy.

“We are not separate from our environment, and therefore I love nature, but I love all of you first,” Dondero said. “I love the people first and I’m putting you first in my thoughts about the county and the things that are important to me.”

Dondero is the author of “Udderly Simple Dairy Foods,” which includes recipes and instructions on natural animal husbandry and tips for a self-sufficient lifestyle.

She said she is against increased taxes and wants to remove partisanship from county politics. If elected, Dondero said she would schedule town hall meetings to find new solutions for the county’s problems.

Dondero said she doesn't support a change in the county commission's districts, or the charter movement because that issue has been voted down several times already.

But she said she would support creating a rural council that could provide input to the county commissioners. “It’s just a matter of giving people a voice," she said.

John Hutchings, 62, of southeast Olympia, retired from the Olympia Police Department in 2012. He served as the city of Tenino’s Police Chief for about three years.

Last October, Hutchings filed an $850,000 defamation lawsuit against Tenino and former Tenino mayor Bret Brodersen, who fired him, alleging that the police chief had worked extra hours, hired a reserve officer without approval, and generally overstepped his authority. The city filed a counter-suit against Hutchings over “unjust enrichment,” but recently withdrew an earlier claim that alleged he committed fraud.

A trial is set for early next year, and Hutchings said he’s been advised by his attorney to not speak publicly about the case.

During the town hall, Hutchings said his professional and community experience has prepared him to serve as county commissioner.

“I bring 35 years of service to others from both sides of the badge,” he said.

Hutchings said he would work to improve the overall community health in Thurston County, which includes taking care of people who are mentally ill or chemically dependent, youth at risk, veterans and the homeless.

He co-authored “The Thin Blue Lifeline: Verbal De-escalation of Mentally Ill & Emotionally Disturbed People — A Comprehensive Guidebook for Law Enforcement Officers,” and trains police officers on how to deescalate interactions with those who have mental illness.

He said he would “bring common sense” to county government, and work to bring economic development to the area while also protecting its natural resources.

“Economic development must occur in a reasonably managed fashion to energize the county’s economic engine,” he said at the Tenino forum. “In order for Thurston County to survive, we need revenue to mitigate expenses and rising costs, but not on your backs.”

Hutchings said he doesn’t support a proposal to increase the size of the Thurston County Board of Commissioners, or reconfigure its districts to bring more representation from the rural areas.

“It’s not the government structure that’s been the problem for the last dozen (or) 16 years,” he said. “It’s not having the right person in the job.”

Allen Miller, 61, is a land use attorney who served two terms on the Olympia School Board.

He is not affiliated with a political party, and is a former state assistant attorney general for the Department of Ecology. He served as the chief land use and environmental deputy prosecutor for Thurston County before returning to private practice at the end of 2006. He also serves as a judge pro tem in Thurston County District Court and Olympia Municipal Court.

Miller said he believes his school board experience will translate well into county government.

“When I got appointed to the school board, it was a dysfunctional body of five people,” he said. “And through my reason, through my listening skills, through just rolling up my shirt sleeves and getting to work, making sure that policies matched what the Olympia School District needed, and just being a collaborator, I was able to make that a very smooth functioning school board and I think I could bring those skills to the county commission.”

Miller said he’s already been tackling economic development through his work with the South Sound YMCA, the United Way of Thurston County, and the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce. If elected, he would work to make sure the county’s land use regulations allow businesses to thrive, he said.

“We’ll have 150,000 (more) people over the next 20 years here in Thurston County, so we need to make sure we have those family-wage jobs,” Miller said.

If elected, Miller said he would support putting a charter measure before the voters that could change the county’s form of government to a five-member council.

The candidate who has spent the most time at county commission meetings and hearings during the past few years is real estate broker Jon Pettit, 58, owner of the Deschutes River Ranch, south of Tumwater.

He’s been caught up in legal snags in the past for opening up his riverfront property to the public for camping and special events.

Pettit routinely speaks at Thurston County Commission meetings. In fact, he was one of the only speakers during several public hearings that were held for last fall’s county budget. He describes himself as a citizen watchdog, and is running as an independent.

Pettit also is a bit of a rebel: Every year, he get slapped with late fees for not paying his county property taxes on time. He said not paying on time is his way of demonstrating civil disobedience.

“I’ve always been a big person to believe that if you don’t fight for your rights, soon you don’t have something to fight for,” Pettit said, adding that he always pays his bill, including the late fee.

Pettit’s dad, the late Delbert “Del” Pettit, was a conservative Democratic Thurston County Commissioner in the 1970s. He said he never considered following in his dad’s political footsteps until recently.

“As we age, often times we become much like those we watched, learned and respected,” Pettit said. “My father believed that government is to serve the citizens, not the other way around. I was very proud of my father.”

If elected, Pettit said he would work to cut excess regulations for businesses and landowners. He also would work to make sure county commission meetings are held at times that could attract more public participation. Those meetings now are held during the work day.

Pettit said he also would cut down the county’s public relations staff, and use that money to pay for an ombudsman who could help residents with their county government questions and issues

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433@Lisa_Pemberton

Jim Cooper

Contact address: 120 State Ave. NE #101, Olympia

Campaign phone: 360-451-9053

Political party: Democratic

Age: 41

Family: Wife Thomasina and 4-year-old daughter Maggie.

Education: Associate in Arts (liberal arts) from Whatcom Community College and coursework from Colorado State University


Campaign fundraising: Raised $26,275 and spent $20,700 as of July 21. Top donors include Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Thurston-Lewis-Mason Counties Labor Council, Progress for Public Safety, and IAFF Tumwater Local 2409.

Endorsements by: Washington Federation of State Employees Local 443, Thurston Environmental Voters and numerous local elected officials including Thurston County Commissioner Cathy Wolfe and state Rep. Chris Reykdal.

Diane Dondero

Address: 16940 Russian Hill Lane SE, Rainier

Campaign phone: 360-446-5746

Political party: Democratic

Age: 66

Family: Widow; four adult children and three grandchildren.

Education: Studied at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment and California Polytechnic State University; has certifications in counseling, health care, crisis management and disaster mitigation.


Campaign fundraising: Has raised $6,148 and spent $5,094 as of July 21. Top contributors include JZK, Inc., JZ Knight, Cephus Childs, Xana Clegg

Endorsements: About a dozen personal endorsements on are listed on her website included ones by Lyn Evans, Jan Ferarri, Susan McLean and Mary Abramson.

John Hutchings

Contact address: 1910 Fourth Ave. E PMB 170, Olympia

Campaign phone: 360-742-2529

Political party: Independent

Age: 62

Family: Wife Debbie and two adult children.

Education: Associate of Arts, Santa Ana College; Bachelor of Arts, The Evergreen State College; Master of Arts in organizational leadership, Chapman University; graduate of FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association academy.


Campaign fundraising: Raised $17,156 raised and $11,298 spent as of July 21. Top donors are Brian Offord, Olympia Master Builders, Nathaniel Holmes, Waste Connection Inc. and Gene Weaver.

Endorsements: Olympia Master Builders, Thurston County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Washington State Farm Bureau PAC and more than 200 individuals including Rainier mayor Randy Schleis and former Thurston County Prosecutor Ed Holm.

Allen Miller

Contact address: 1801 West Bay Drive NW, Suite 205, Olympia

Campaign phone: 360-754-9156

Political party: No preference, running nonpartisan

Age: 61

Family: Three adult children.

Education: Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law, Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia


Campaign fundraising: Raised $16,367 and spent $12,213 as of July 21. Top donors include Robert McIntosh, Greg Miller, Jace Munson, Ron Rants and Don Rhodes.

Endorsements: The Olympia Education Association and more than 125 individuals including Gary Alexander, Gerry Alexander, Sam Reed and Judy Wilson.

Jon Pettit

Address: 9725 Rich Road SE, Olympia

Campaign phone: 360-951-8888

Political party: Independent

Age: 58

Family: Wife Biying, 13-year-old son Jinrong and adult daughter Holly.

Education: Timberline High School graduate, coursework from South Puget Sound Community College


Campaign fundraising: Has raised $4,682 and spent $3,644 as of July 21. Top contributors are Terry Ballard, Carolyn Lattin and Bryan Anderson.

Endorsements: Has not sought formal endorsements.


For a complete guide to the contested races in the Aug. 2 primary, go to





Cooper is the leader we need

Thank you to Former Olympia City Councilmember TJ Johnson for writing this great letter to the editor! 


Cooper is the leader we need

T.J. Johnson, Olympia

As a 25 year resident of Thurston County, I understand that the people we elect as our County Commissioners play a major role in shaping our quality of life and our local economy. That is why I am delighted to be supporting Jim Cooper for County Commissioner.

Jim is smart, passionate and pragmatic, and will provide the values based, balanced leadership we need to ensure that Thurston County remains a great place to work, play and raise a family. He understands that protecting the environment, building a sustainable economy and creating a more inclusive and responsive county government are all essential cornerstones for a great community.

As a political independent, I appreciate that Jim has had the courage to take tough votes as member of the Olympia City Council, and that he is not afraid to stand up against political party pressures.

As a small farmer, I know Jim will provide the leadership we need to protect our remaining farmland and support the small farmers, food entrepreneurs and non-profits working to build a stronger local food system.

Several of the other candidates running against Jim call themselves “independents” or state no party affiliation. Don’t be fooled. They are wolves in sheep clothing, and their real agendas are to roll back common-sense environmental regulations and cut funding to essential public services.

Quality communities require quality community leaders. We are fortunate that Jim Cooper is willing to step up to that challenge. Vote Jim Cooper for County Commissioner.

TCTV Primary Candidate Forum: Commissioner District 1

Check out Jim and his four opponents at the TCTV Candidate forum for Thurston County Commissioner, District 1. Filmed 6/4/2016