Former Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey will be taking on a new role next year, as western Washington County voters appear to have elected him as their next county commissioner Tuesday, May 15.
Unofficial results as of Wednesday morning, May 16, gave Willey 55.1 percent of the vote to 44.5 percent for rival Kimberly Culbertson, a Hillsboro neighborhood activist and city volunteer. That margin narrowed slightly from initial returns, but not enough to jeopardize Willey's outright win.
Shortly after initial results at 8 p.m. showed him topping Culbertson by a healthy margin, Willey spoke to supporters at Hillsboro Aviation.
"I appreciate all the encouragement that I've gotten, and certainly the support that they've given me, both financially and physically," Willey told the News-Times after his remarks, mentioning those who put up yard signs for him. "I really appreciate my volunteer support group."
Willey boasted a wide range of endorsements, including the backing of every mayor in the county, Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck, County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Metro President Tom Hughes and more.
If the election results are certified, Willey will succeed outgoing Commissioner Bob Terry at the start of 2019. Terry chose not to run for re-election in order to pursue a bid for county chairman, with Duyck retiring at the end of the year.
Willey served as mayor of Hillsboro for two terms, from 2009 to 2017. He led Washington County's largest city through the Great Recession, presided during the relocation that brought the Hillsboro Hops minor league baseball team to town, and won a leadership award from the Oregon Mayors Association in 2015 for his work on urban renewal and economic development.
A certified public accountant by training, Willey is also a U.S. Navy veteran, serving in the military during the Vietnam War.
"I think the Board of Commissioners is going to go through some transition of priorities. And a part of that is the affordable housing bond that is being discussed at the Metro level, and with all of the cities and counties," Willey said, also noting "just the fact that the unincorporated areas of Washington County are growing rapidly, and they are going to need some planning and some help from the county, which is not designed to plan residential areas."
He added, "I think we're going to need to begin prioritizing that a little bit more, and helping those smaller cities, like North Plains, Banks and Gaston."
As he is a registered Republican, Willey's addition to the board will maintain right-of-center representation for the voters of District 4, which covers most of western Washington County. Terry is also a registered Republican.
Although officially, the Board of Commissioners is a nonpartisan body, in practice, the board frequently splits along partisan lines — with Duyck, Terry and Rogers outvoting Commissioners Greg Malinowski and Dick Schouten, who are active in Washington County Democratic politics. It remains to be seen whether the election of Willey will alter that dynamic.
In neighboring District 2, Pam Treece appears to have ousted incumbent Commissioner Greg Malinowski by a nearly 20-point margin. Willey endorsed Treece in the race.
"Pam Treece has worked extremely hard," Willey said. "She raised a lot of money. She did everything she needed to do. And I'm extremely pleased at the results that are coming out early, and I am hopeful that I will be able to work with her on the commission over the next four years."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with unofficial results as of Wednesday, May 16, as well as quotes from Jerry Willey.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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