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Commissioner hopefuls discuss issues at forum

Election 2014 — Eight candidates addressed countys future, give insight into political views


With the filing deadline passed, campaigning for the May primary election is thoroughly underway. This included the first candidate forum for the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners race April 1 at a joint meeting of the Newberg City Club and Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Two positions are opening as Mary Stern (Position 3) and Kathy George (Position 1) reach their terms limits. But in March Stern announced she accepted a position with the Association of Oregon Counties, meaning her position will be empty as of May 27, one week after the primary. It is the hope that there will be a clear winner in the primary race that could then be appointed to the post in the interim until the November election.

Candidates for Position 3 include Debra Bridges, Marc Shelton and Mary Starrett. Position 1 did include seven candidates, but after it was revealed Chris Heisler failed to sign his paperwork, he was disqualified and the race was whittled down to six. Those candidate hopefuls include Stan Primozich, Sal Peralta, David Russ, Bill Willis and Brett Veatch.

At the forum, each candidate was asked the same four prepared questions, as well as given an opportunity for opening and closing remarks. In general, most candidates responded similarly to each question presented, but at times, some answers differed from the pack.

As a resident of Yamhill County, please tell us what you’ve done to enhance health and welfare of Yamhill County and its citizens?

Each candidate focused on their devotion to the county’s youth, citing work within the education system, as youth advocates and a few mentioned Habitat for Humanity.

“The thing I’ve done is I started the Dundee Community Clothes Closet with my wife,” Russ said. “It’s solidly established in the Dundee Community Center and we sell everything in there for a dollar. We’re helping to improve things in Dundee.”

Willis talked about his work with the Methodist Church.

“For over 20 years I’ve been involved with Bible quizzing through the Methodist church,” he said. “The kids memorize the word of God and write scripture (from) their hearts.”

From your perspective, what do you feel is the most important issue facing the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners?

There was a nearly uniform response touting greater job creation and economic development.

Wavering slightly from those two focal points, Bridges brought up the issue of fiscal responsibility.

“I also don’t disagree about jobs, but there’s a lot that the county has been working on to try and help with econ development and that’s the Grow Yamhill County program,” she said. “I am partially concerned as well with fiscal management because we rely heavily on state and federal dollars that come into our county. That discretionary dollar is where we have (an opportunity to make changes).”

Starrett concentrated on illicit drug use in the county.

“I also believe we have a significant drug problem in the county,” she said. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of drug problem, but we are going to nip it in the bud.”

Completion of the bypass, Grow Yamhill County and evidence-based decision making are all major initiatives for Yamhill County. What are your top priorities for Yamhill County and how do they align with the county’s present initiatives?

Most candidates focused on the current initiatives, primarily discussing the Evidence Based Decision Making Initiative (EBDMI) and what it can do for the county’s future.

Shelton took the issues and melded them into a central idea.

“Any other year the bypass would have been No. 1, so it’s nice it’s moving off the list,” he said, but cited data collection as a fundamental need that can be applied to any initiative. “It’s having the data to make good decisions.”

Primozich focused on the bypass and a problem he said needs to be fixed before Phase 1 continues.

“The problem is we’re going to move the existing problem down the road if we don’t correct the existing problem, called the fish hook. There is a design to fix that, but money is certainly an object,” he said. “The problem is only compounded if we don’t fix it before we get started.”

What is the county’s role in economic development and what would you do to strengthen the county’s economy?

All the candidates designated that role as a facilitator for the city governments and the county’s residents. Some focused on the need to help grow private markets and small businesses, but Veatch suggested going even further.

“We can also look at a number of niche markets; we have a number of small businesses that have come into our community though tourism,” Veatch said, listing specialty product producers, including a pork company in Dundee. “We need to support those businesses.”

Peralta focused more on the Strategic Investment Program, a state program that forgives property taxes in order to encourage large corporations to locate in cities, and the need to look elsewhere as well.

“We had every candidate up here discuss economic development and I agree,” he said. “(But) anyone who talks about economic development and doesn’t first think the issue of education probably doesn’t have a (grasp on the issue as a commissioner.)”



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