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Jackson Plucker (2) felt like king of the wheat field, when his daddy (Chris) let him drive at his great-grandfather Robert Plucker’s farm in Touchet.
Photo by Tami Plucker

North40

PROFILES

Focus will be on small businesses

Walla Walla grower's background will come in handy as a state Representative

January 2021
By Trista Crossley


Mark Klicker’s agricultural experience is as diverse as his family’s history of raising crops, and he’s planning on taking that experience and putting it to work as a newly elected state representative for the 16th Legislative District.

“If we don’t step up, we are going to lose this country,” he explained, referring to a rural America that includes smaller urban areas like Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. “It’s important that we get involved. I believe if I can find ways of working in collaboration with both sides of the aisle, we can find solutions. That’s what we need to do. We need to bring people together.”

The Klickers go back four generations in Walla Walla County. Along the way, they’ve raised wheat, cattle, alfalfa, strawberries and cherries, among other things. Klicker, a republican, currently owns a forest management business that looks after his family’s timberland, as well as some of his neighbors’ land, and is a licensed realtor. He’s also spent 16 years as a regional field director for the Washington Farm Bureau. He defeated his democratic opponent, Frances Chvatal, with 63.5 percent of the vote, for the seat previously held by Rep. Bill Jenkin. The 16th Legislative District covers Columbia and Walla Walla counties, the southern portion of Benton county and the city of Pasco in Franklin County.

Klicker’s main focus going into his first legislative session is business recovery, especially for small businesses, which includes agriculture.

“We have to help small businesses, because they are taking a hit,” he explained. “We are looking now to see what we can do for small business in tax incentives, cost sharing or grants, something that will help them. As we speak, I’m trying to put a bill together…I’m coming out of the box as explosively as I can.”

He believes this session will be all about the budget and is concerned that other legislators will look at raising taxes as a way to help balance the budget. He said he’s heard whispers about possible increases in the B&O tax, a carbon tax and a capital gains tax.

“We have to create tax incentives so businesses and people can go back to work and generate revenue,” he said. “If we tax and nobody is in business or is not employed, that will only create more problems for us.”

Klicker is hoping to be named to the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where he can use his farm bureau legislative experience, as well as his committee and board member experience that includes land-use planning, watershed planning and growth management work.

The pandemic has not only brought budget issues to the forefront of the upcoming legislative session, it’s also caused House leaders to turn the session into a virtual one. Klicker is concerned that that decision will put rural legislators at a disadvantage. He predicted that a broadband bill will make an appearance this session as legislators discover just how hard it is to get reliable internet in some parts of the state.

“For a large part of our legislators in Eastern Washington, the broadband just isn’t there. What’s going to happen when you have a legislator that gets thrown off (a meeting) because their internet speed is so slow and can’t keep up? Are they now out of it, and will there be a vote they can’t be on?” he asked. “I really believe we aren’t going to be able to operate correctly to get our voice and our opinions and arguments out because the session is virtual.”

Technological issues aside, Klicker also believes that being able to meet face to face with legislators on both sides of the aisle is how consensus is built and common ground is found.

“That’s where you start sprouting new ideas,” he said. “I enjoy being at home, that’s where family is, but I didn’t take this position just to sit around at home and eat bon bons. I want to get to work.”