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Turnout for election even lower than expected at 17.88 percent

Voters decided two contested Parks and Recreation District Board positions Tuesday, following a 2017 Crook County District Election that only drew a 17.8 percent turnout.

Ruthie McKenzie defeated 12-year incumbent Forest Carbaugh to take position 1 on the Crook County Parks and Recreation District Board. McKenzie received 998 votes compared to 909 for Carbaugh.

"I am very flattered, and I am looking forward to working on the board, giving it a diligent try to get a new pool," McKenzie said. "I think it is desperately needed."

McKenzie is a descendant of a pioneer family. Her grandfather served as a marshal in the Prineville community and planted grass at Pioneer Park. She graduated from high school in Crook County and attended college at University of Oregon.

At age 70, McKenzie is now serving as treasurer for the Crook County Historical Society and sought a Parks and Recreation Board position to not only work on a new pool but help keep the parks that she loves in pristine shape.

Meanwhile, Darlene Henderson won position 3 — which will be vacated by Barb Pennington — earning 1,126 votes compared to 676 for Skip Hinton.

"I am excited, I am happy and of course a little nervous," Henderson said about her victory.

Henderson, who is 60 years old and arrived in Prineville three years ago, has a passion for bike trails and increasing the amount of biking options in the Crook County community. She is a member of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, played a prominent role in the creation of the Lower 66 trail last summer, a 2.3-mile system near Meadow Lakes Golf Course, and later worked with Ochoco National Forest rehabilitating the Cougar Creek Trail. Henderson then helped spearhead a new community bike park, meeting with local government officials and parks and recreation leaders to make the park a reality.

Along with expanding bike trail opportunities, Henderson is interested in leading the effort to build a new pool.

"I think that would definitely be an asset," she remarked.

More generally, Henderson wants to play a role in developing more recreational opportunities in Crook County, whatever form they might take.

"It is so crucial to healthy living, to the quality of life of the community," she said. "Having recreation available is what attracts people to live here. … It's so important."

Also winning Parks and Recreation board positions were incumbents Jeremy Logan and Casey Kaiser, both of whom faced no opposition.

Running unopposed, Scott Cooper and Gwen Carr retained their Crook County School Board positions, and Dennis Bauldree, Steve Lent and Dennis Merrill all won positions on the Crook County Fire and Rescue Board, facing no opposition. Voters decided two Crook County Cemetery Board positions as well, with Elizabeth Lampert and James Wood each winning uncontested races. In addition, Laura Craska Cooper ran unopposed and was re-elected to represent Zone 2 of the Central Oregon Community College board.

Voter turnout for the 2017 District Election was just 17.88 percent, much lower than the 2015 election, which saw a 23.64 percent of voters cast a ballot. County Clerk Cheryl Seely said that a drop was expected percentage-wise because the number of eligible voters rose from 12,367 in 2015 to 15,775 in 2017, with much of the increase attributable to the new motor voter law. Because of the contested races for the Parks and Recreation Board, the Clerk's Office staff expected to see a turnout closer to 20 percent.

"We weren't expecting it to be quite that small," Seely said.

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