Collier running for county seat again

Phil Collier believes that Island County government could use the experience of a businessman.

Phil Collier believes that Island County government could use the experience of a successful businessman.

Collier, the owner of Hilltop Auto Service, was a surprise candidate for Island County commissioner, but he’s not new to campaigning. He ran 12 years ago as an independent candidate for the District 2 position, which covers the greater Oak Harbor area. He didn’t make it through the primary election, but did much better than expected for someone competing without a party.

This time, Collier is a Republican candidate. It will be a rematch against incumbent Commissioner Jill Johnson, also a Republican. A third candidate, attorney and entrepreneur Christina Elliott, is running as a Democrat. Only two of the candidates will make it through the Aug. 6 primary.

While this time Collier is running as a partisan candidate, he said his philosophy is the same. He believes in fiscal responsibility, individual property rights and governmental accountability.

What sets him apart, he said, is his experience.

“People in government don’t know how to run a business,” he said. “People in government don’t understand why experience in the real world is so important.”

Collier was raised in a Navy family and grew up in Oak Harbor. He said he understands the importance of hard work firsthand. He started working at a service center on Ault Field Road when he was just 13 or 14 years old. He was 18 years old, and newly graduated from Oak Harbor High School, when he opened Hilltop Auto Service.

The company now employs 15 people and handles contracts for a variety of government agencies, including cities and counties in the region.

The key to his success, Collier said, is transparency and respect for both his staff and the clients. He said Johnson is known to have some “tone” issues, which he said wouldn’t fly in the business world.

Collier said he sees a lot of decisions that commissioners make that he would have done differently. The county, for example, is hiring a firm to study the aging jail and come up with recommendations for possibly building a new facility.

As a business person, he sees this as an unnecessary waste of money. He said the jail staff and the sheriff already know what the issues are and what they need. The commissioners should just work with them, he said.

Collier pointed out that one issue that has generated a lot of heat in the county is shoreline policy and planning. The county is looking at a policy that would discourage hard armoring and other beach construction because it’s considered bad for the environment, while some landowners are concerned about protecting their land from rising tides.

Collier said he could offer an important perspective since his family owns property on Neah Bay that was struck by a huge storm, and he knows firsthand what challenges there are in dealing with government.

Collier believes in compassionate conservatism. As a longtime resident, he said he understands that some people in the community face hardship and just need a little help. His family, for example, took in three foster children to raise, in addition to his own child. He is proud to say that his foster daughter is graduating from college with a BA in criminology.

“I believe in giving people a chance in life,” he said.

He recently donated a property easement to a trailer park for a waterline because residents had been without regular running water for months.

“We have to work together as human beings,” he said.