Thurston County is paying a high price for Sandra Romero's happiness

Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero is leaving behind an impressive legacy of incompetence, waste, and politically motivated destruction.  She has inflicted this damage on hundreds of thousands of people and retarded the potential prosperity of her constituents.  While it might be impossible to put a price on the destruction of people’s dreams caused by arrogant politicians and their Central Planning schemes, we can put a price on the $200 million of direct destruction Commissioner Romero has caused in her eight years as commissioner.  

Thurston County is paying a high price for Sandra Romero's happiness
Thurston County is paying a high price for Sandra Romero’s happiness

For Whistleblowers, please go here to learn more.

In the late 1970s, there was a popular show on TV called the $6 million dollar man.  With inflation over time, today, this show would be the $30 million dollar man today.  A lot of money for most of us to consider, which probably helped give the original show some support.  However, if Sandra Romero had only stolen that much money directly from the county coffers and fled to Mexico where she likes to vacation – local residents would be in far better shape than they are today.  

This is not a comprehensive list.  More financial harm can be documented by those who wish to dive deeper in the archives of Thurston County’s abusive history, however, for simplicity’s sake, I have limited this calculation to a handful of subjects which were direct damage Sandra Romero inflicted while she served as Thurston County Commissioner from 2008 to the present time.  She was a former legislator in the Washington State House of Representatives from 1993 to 2004, and the harm she dumped on the people of Washington State during that venture is not included in this list.  Nor am I including the approximately $1.5 million in direct legal bills she cost the citizens of Thurston County when she organized a Futurewise lawsuit against Thurston County while she was on the board of that destructive organization.  thurston money wasting hall of fame

Damages inflicted:

  • Sandra Romero led the charge to build the legendary $61 million
    (called the Accountability and Restitution Center, or ARC for short because “Jail” was not a nice sounding word to prospective criminals) located in the Mottman industrial Park.  After taxpayers rejected this idea twice, Thurston County built it anyway, and then it stood vacant and unused almost five years.
     Money was squandered each year of vacancy on maintenance, interest payments, consultants, and various other ideas as the taxpayers paid for this mistake.  This story made statewide headlines over the years and is currently being used as a case study example for local governments on how NOT to build a jail, or “ARC.”  Money wasted and lost: $3 million.

    While it cost $61 million and sat empty 5 years, it is finally being used.
    While it cost $61 million and sat empty 5 years, it is finally being used.
  • Sandra Romero also strongly supported the 3400 Building fiasco which is located near the formerly empty jail.  This facility had originally been purchased before her time in local office, but on her watch, she was directly responsible for destroying the asset value of this empty and unused capital asset facility by giving away a large chunk of the property as a permanent homeless encampment, and spending at least $2.6 million additional dollars on this empty building. Total money wasted at Romero’s direction: $4.6 million down the drain.

    The 3400 Building in Thurston County - still the empty money pit
    3400 building in Thurston County – still empty after 18 years
  • Sandra Romero, along with Commissioners Kathy Wolfe and Karen Valenzuela set a new Washington State record by losing the largest land-use jury verdict in the 2014 Maytown lawsuit decision.  The Lewis County jury (after a month of testimony) awarded the plaintiffs, the Maytown Sand and Gravel Company and the Port of Tacoma, $12 million and specifically said the actions of the Thurston County Commissioners “shocked the conscience.”  The legal fees paid by taxpayers on this case alone total $1.3 million.  Additionally, there appears to be an option for both plaintiffs, if they can prove “intent to cause malice” (and there appears to be some evidence to support this claim) then the
    Thurston County budget under Romero
    Sandra Romero has many ways to waste taxpayer money

    plaintiffs can double the penalties on appeal.  The true cost of this lawsuit, a creation entirely of the Thurston County Commissioners and led by Sandra Romero, is still unknown, but money down the drain for sure: $13.3 million.

  • A strong and successful effort by Thurston County staff and cheered by Sandra Romero to chase Ritchie Brothers out of Thurston County succeeded in 2013.  You know local government is abusive, when a major business is willing to lose $15 million just to move seven exits south to a different jurisdiction.  To Ritchie Brothers, this was a small price to pay to escape Romero’s rapacious efforts to destroy their business.  Lewis County now receives the roughly $1 – $1.2 million in annual sales tax which Thurston County lost forever.  Unlike property tax, which shifts tax burdens to other property owners, sales tax is just a total loss to the county budget.  Thurston County has been very effective at chasing away businesses, but this one stands out just by the size of the tax loss: minimum $29 million loss through 2040 (an arbitrary year – picked by Thurston Regional Planning Council for everything else).
  • The crowning glory for Sandra Romero will be the massive property value destruction she inflicted on the citizens of Thurston County through the pocket gopher tax.  A pet project for Sandra Romero, she invited the US Fish & Wildlife Service into the Thurston County Central Planning Department (euphemistically called “Resource Stewardship”) in an effort to squander a $600,000 grant.  The final result, as currently estimated by Thurston County staff and their cheerleaders at USFWS, will cost the taxpayers of Thurston County approximately $151 million over the next 30 years (Their estimate, not mine; I suspect it will be worse) to acquire and
    Pocket Gophers Are Now Taxed
    Pocket Gophers were Sandra Romero’s perfect tool for waste

    maintain 7,000 acres of gopher land.  This project is unique in the nation, and even the USFWS couldn’t believe they had found a collection of county officials including Sandra Romero willing to allow this scienceless silliness.  Total money lost by Thurston County to become a national laughing stock for the gopher tax scheme: $152 million.

There are countless smaller examples of frivolous county waste, abusive regulation and Central Planning schemes which chase the fortunate businesses out of Thurston while destroying the less fortunate who can’t escape in time.  The personal dreams destroyed by Sandra Romero and her staff infection are legion, and while I have documented some of them linked at the end of this article, they only scratch the surface.  The millions detailed above is very conservative, but it is a number easily attached to the legacy of Sandra Romero, the $200 million Commissioner.  

Not very storm ready
Thurston County really wasn’t ready for the financial storm Sandra Romero delivered

Those who wish to carry on Sandra Romero’s Legacy

A new election is upon the residents of Thurston County.  In 2016, we will choose two new commissioners to replace the incompetent and destructive ones retiring.  Democrat candidate Jim Cooper is running in the other open seat and has promised to follow in Sandra’s footsteps, perhaps even kick up the pain and suffering another notch or two.  Any other choice will be better than the financial doom and human suffering he promises to inflict.  Jim Cooper may be the only politician in the county striving to break Sandra Romero’s record.

In Sandra Romero’s seat, there are currently two options.  One is the former sheriff, Gary Edwards, who is running largely to save Thurston County from the ravages of such an incompetent legacy as detailed above.  The other is Kelsey Helse,  who has been recruited by Sandra to continue her legacy.  Kelsey is connected to Congressman Denny Heck (a friend of his daughter-in-law) and related to Tumwater City Councilman Eileen Swarthout.  If more destruction and harm to Thurston County is desired, she will be the candidate to support in this race.

In balance, some positive aspects of Romero’s tenure

In the interest of balance and fairness, I think it is important to point out the positive aspects as well as the negatives.  There were some positive elements of Commissioner Sandra Romero’s legacy which will be left behind.  Here they are:

  • A five acre dog park in Lacey complete with decorative fire hydrants on the site of the old landfill.

    At least we got these cool signs
  • A six-year project called Bountiful Byway which put up attractive signs along the rural roads of Thurston County.  Of course, the area is becoming less bountiful as the Thurston County regulations kick-in hard, but six years to put up attractive signs is government at its best.
  • Some bicycle paths and roundabouts.
  • A plastic bag ban.
  • An Agritourism Ordinance which at least implicitly recognizes the regulations are abusive to rural residents and it sort-of exempts selected areas (originally copied from Mariposa County, California).  Funny thing was the original boundary of this area didn’t include some of Sandra Romero’s friends, so she had to go through the process to change the boundary lines.

It wasn’t worth having a  $200 million commissioner like Sandra Romero.  Neither us, nor our children will be able to afford many more like her in the future.  Unfortunately, for the people of Thurston County, Sandra Romero has chosen to leave county government worse than she left it, but at least this plague will finally pass.

Thurston County plague
Kathy Wolfe, Sandra Romero, and Karen Valenzuela were a plague in Thurston County, but this too shall pass

Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.”  It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people.  It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government.  It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.”  Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed

Related Articles for additional background:

Thurston County Punishes Rural Serfs Again

Thurston County invents new $42,000 gopher tax for new home owners

A Plague of Consequences in Thurston County

Thurston County Commissioners Deny the Reality of Math

Thurston County Bag Ban – Paper or Plastic?

Lawsuit Filed Against Thurston County over Pocket Gopher Process

Stifling Human Ingenuity

Tales of Tyranny – Bert Wasch Story – Thurston County denies his right to build a home for 5 years

Thurston County to Citizens:  Living here is a real gamble

Childish Political Leadership in Thurston County is costing Taxpayers Millions

Thurston County Demonstrates How Not to Build a Jail

Tales of Tyranny – Misti Chastain – Thurston County attempts to destroy her farm business

Tales of Tyranny – Jay Howell – Thurston County costs family thousands of dollars and takes most of the use of their property for a gopher

Tales of Tyranny – Chris Weaver – Thurston County makes him a criminal for hurting a gopher

Union Protests Incompetent Thurston County Commissioner


  1. Glad to hear she’s leaving, but unfornately she will be replaced by a clone. I lived in beautiful Thurston county for 18yrs before moving away in 2012. Im very familiar with the political climate there, and every election cycle I scratch my head in disbelief. This kind of waste, and irrational decision making occurs on a regular basis there. Yet every election the people of Thurston county vote them back in, Its all self inflicted. I just don’t ever see the mindset changing in Olympia.

    • Gary, well, not always. In 2014, Karen Valenzuela – as terrible a commissioner , if not worse, than Sandra Romero was voted out by a 9-point margin of defeat. Bud Blake, who beat her – ran as an independant, no political experience, far less money, and other challenges that normally would make him a loser in the race. However, he won handily, and I think he has largely been doing a good job. Change can happen, but it takes work and public exposure f the truth, like this article, is a good part of the process. Share widely. We no longer have a media that will report the truth any longer. It is up to us to become that media…

      • I noticed that these bad dudes and dames seem to just transfer their poison to other places. I found this statement in the Olympian.
        “Former Thurston County Executive Manager Don Krupp, who is now administrator of Clackamas County, said Romero’s most important contribution to Thurston County was “good land use planning to protect our environmental assets.””

        Read more here:

        Just as Cliff Moore is going to plague Yakima, the cancer moves on.

        • Julia,

          You are right, they do tend to ruin one community and then move to another one where they can spread their incompetence or bad ideas. This is why it is worth exposing them…


  2. Glen, thank you so much for all your articles and reporting. We are hoping for some positive changes in Thurston county with departing commissioners being replaced.

    • Karen, I am hoping for positive change as well. I am an optimist, and a true believer that people need to become more involved in local government. Please share widely with others…

Comments are closed.