As of Monday, April 16, 2018
TERRACE HEIGHTS The seventh person to announce his candidacy for Yakima County Commission seat No. 3, Steve Changala, lives in Terrace Heights, but he knows the Lower Yakima Valley well.
Changala, 56, has been a farmer in the Harrah area for years, smaller now than he once was. He was a Yakima County Sheriff’s Office deputy for 30 years, dedicating 22 of those years to the lower valley.
He was a detective in the investigation of the Skelton Family murders on Liberty Road near Granger back in 1993.
“It was an initiation for a couple of gang members,” he said. “They were to go into that home and take care of anybody in there. It was one of the ugliest murder scenes ever.”
The murderers, both in prison for 80 years or more, killed the parents and their two children.
Changala is of Spanish descent. His grandparents were from Basque country. His father bought the Black Rock Ranch, 5-6 miles west of Silver Dollar.
“He drilled the first well out there,” Changala said.
Changala toured all of Spain just about a year ago to get a sense of his roots
“It was amazing,” he said.
Changala is not fluent in Spanish, but he has a working grasp of it that helped while he was a deputy.
“I understood more than I spoke,” he said. “If a man was telling me where he lived, or how to get there, I understood.”
Working for the sheriff’s department, Changala said he learned a lot about the county. Most Importantly, he said, the sheriff’s department eats up 82 percent of county’s budget.
“I don’t have to learn the process,” he said. “From the beginning, I can work on accountability.”
Changala said experience has taught him that nearly all theft crime is tied to drug usage. People can’t feed their habits with employment income, so they steal to raise the money.
Changala was enlightened when one young man he picked up said: “In my world, everbody does drugs,” he said.
Changala said thefts on farms has become chronic. Thieves take those things they can sell as scrap metal at recycling centers.
“Metal prices are going up,” he said. “It’s more lucrative now.”
Changala said the answer may be a tightening of the rules that exist now on the acceptance of metals by recyclers. It may be necessary to stretch the waiting period before the purchase is paid or increasing fines on recyclers with stolen goods on their hands.
Changala hopes to be able to reverse the county commission’s decision this year to meter drinking water. He said owners of new wells have to pay for meters and pay the county for water, adding that a home is allotted 300 gallons per day.
“If you want more, you have to pay more,” he said.
Changala does not believe anyone in the county should pay for water, and he especially doesn’t agree with the practice of metering new wells while families with old wells are not metered.
“Whether I get elected or not, I’m working on a solution for this. I’m working on it now,” Changala said.