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SPOTLIGHT: Commissioner Ozias
A little over a year ago, Mark Ozias was approached by a well-respected community leader who urged him to run for Clallam County Commissioner. Happily serving his third year as the Executive Director of the Sequim Food Bank, and despite added encouragement from family and friends, Mark declined–he was excited about and committed to the transformative work the he and his team were accomplishing at the food bank.
Then, one night on the way home from work, Mark’s mind suddenly filled with a vision of what he might be able to accomplish as County Commissioner and he realized that he had the right skills and experience to address Clallam County’s most significant needs. After talking it over with his wife, Mark threw his hat in the ring and was elected as the Clallam
County Commissioner for the eastern end of the county last November, which includes Sequim and the surrounding areas. He officially took office on January 1st, 2016.
As County Commissioner, Mark has had the opportunity to serve on numerous advisory boards, steering committees and planning groups, interacting every day with citizens, non-profit and business leaders, and community activists. “I am continually amazed by the passion and dedication that surrounds me, and constantly reminded that the most important aspect of my job is to find ways to help unleash this passion and leverage this dedication so that we can accomplish big goals together,” says Commissioner Ozias.
Involving more citizens in the county government by moving “beyond the public comment period” and better aligning the county’s budgetary priorities with its stated goals and objectives are among Commissioner Ozias’ most significant priorities: “two of the county’s top three strategic goals relate to public health and quality of life, both of which speak directly to combating hunger. I want our county to be an active partner and regional leader in facilitating efforts to combat hunger and improve nutrition.”
Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, but Commissioner Ozias points out how Clallam County has already made great strides in distributing resources and food to those in need, especially those living in the rural West End of the county. He even gave a special “shout out” to the Port Angeles Food Bank’s Executive Director, Jessica Hernandez, for her vital role in making this happen.
Now, Commissioner Ozias thinks that the biggest challenge to addressing hunger in his county is educating the community and food bank leaders about nutrition. “We need to move beyond the ‘more is better’ mentality; we need to prioritize healthy eating and work collaboratively with schools, health educators, senior nutrition providers and others to ensure consistent messaging,” says Ozias. Luckily, Clallam County has already implemented several hunger and nutrition-related programs and works closely with partners like the WSU Extension office. Traditional assistance efforts like SNAP education, combined with innovative programs like county-wide produce gleaning and establishing strong partnerships are examples of the creative and collaborative efforts the county is making to craft regional solutions to the challenges of hunger.
In addition to a twenty-plus year career in non-profit management and development, Mark and his wife, Lisa, have owned and operated two small businesses including The Red Rooster Grocery in Sequim. Mark and Lisa live on a small farm outside of Sequim with their three dogs, three cats and flock of two dozen chickens. This summer, Mark is participating in a regional giant pumpkin-growing contest which he plans to win.