Clerk candidates introduce themselves
At the final candidate forum before the May 15 primary election, the four candidates for Jefferson County clerk — Yoonsun Reynolds, Kate Zemke, Brian Crow and Charity Dubisar — all had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the audience gathered at the Madras Central Oregon Community College campus April 25.
Originally from Hoquiam, Washington, Reynolds, 35, moved to Madras several years ago. "This has become my community and my new county for about three years now," she said.
Although some may consider the clerk's job "a little boring," she said, "Fifty years from now, it becomes history."
Reynolds earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Western Washington University, and a master's degree in advanced interpretation and translation between English and Korean from Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea.
For the past 17 years, Zemke, 59, has worked in the Jefferson County Clerk's Office, alongside retiring Clerk Kathy Marston, on recording public documents, such as deeds, mortgages, marriage licenses, maps and dog licenses.
"Our historical records are all now digitized," said Zemke, the chief deputy clerk. "We can thank the county clerk for that."
Over the years, she has helped conduct more than 30 elections, including four presidential elections. "I will be your guardian of democracy," she said.
Zemke grew up in Cottage Grove, and attended Willamette University for a year, then Genesis Discipleship Training Center in Santa Rosa, California, and later, Portland Community College.
The county's fair manager since July 2016, Crow, 48, was raised in Eugene, where he owned a production company, Internet Marketing Services, for 10 years, from 1997-2006.
In 2006, he sold his interest in the company to his business partner, and went into the entertainment business, organizing large music concerts and festivals.
As the county's web manager for the past year, Crow believes that he is best qualified to help the county with technology that is continuing to evolve.
Crow attended Northwest Christian University in Eugene for two years.
Dubisar, 43, who operates Snap Shots 1HR Photo, in Madras, is the third generation of her family to grow up in Madras.
"About a year ago, I started exploring the opportunity of doing something different," said Dubisar, who familiarized herself with the special election in January, attended two days of budget presentations, and has visited with the clerk to find out more about the job.
"This is the way I can continue to support my community, but in a different capacity," she said.
Dubisar attended COCC and Chemeketa Community College for two years, studying accounting and business.
Following the candidates' short comments, moderators for the event, Rick Allen and Mike Ahern, launched into the question and answer period.
Noting that the nonpartisan clerk position doesn't deal with politics, but still interacts with the County Commission and county administrator, Allen asked how the candidates would ensure a good working relationship with the others.
"I believe in listening," said Zemke, who would assess the needs of the office to make sure that it is properly staffed and equipped.
"Really, the county clerk's responsibility and influence is more at the state level; that would be the emphasis," she said.
Crow said that he had spent his entire career "feeling like I've been elected."
"I'm a bridge builder, a consensus builder," said Crow. "I like to be the coxswain; I've always striven to make sure everyone on my team is moving in the same direction."
Working with the County Commission and county administrator "would be kind of like partnering with the community," said Dubisar. "It's a teamwork type of situation."
One of Reynolds' last jobs was working as the executive assistant to the CEO of Luidia Inc., in San Jose, California, which produced interactive whiteboards. When the company was sold to its South Korean competitor, she said it was difficult adjusting to a new boss, but she had no problem working with the different departments.
"I don't see any issues arising between the county administrator or County Commission," she said.
Ahern, currently a county commissioner, asked how the candidates would find ways to improve the way the Clerk's Office delivers its services.
Offering what he termed a "great example," Crow said that when he started working for the county, the county's website "was dismal."
Last year, he was appointed webmaster, and began designing a new website that's easier to navigate, "making information more available to people in the county."
Pointing out that it's difficult to determine the answer to the question when a person doesn't work for the county, Dubisar said, "That's something that, once I'm in the office, I'll be able to judge."
After looking at a map of the county and seeing the far-flung communities, Reynolds said that it's a good idea to have more information online to streamline service.
"It's something I'll have to look into, as well," she said.
While the position of county clerk is not "a technology position," Zemke said that the position does deal with technology. "We're constantly adjusting our software."
Making licenses, such as a marriage license, available online is a possibility she'd consider. "You have to think about how you're spending your money and is it cost-effective," said Zemke.
Asked if there is anything the clerk could do to encourage voter turnout, the candidates had a variety of responses.
"Even as a young child, I loved looking at elections on TV," said Reynolds, who would like to help schools communicate that elections "are not so boring."
Zemke agreed that education is important, and noted that the clerk can help high school students register to vote as early as age 16. "When you turn 18, the next election you'll be sent a ballot," she said.
"How do we get people out to vote?" asked Crow. "I think we have to, as clerks, start thinking outside the box. Digital, at-home voting? They're talking about it."
Dubisar said that she has been encouraging her friends to register to vote. "I really don't know how you can get them to register," she said. "I have reminded people for two months on Facebook to register to vote."
What qualifications give the candidates an edge over the others?
"I'm new to the community, but I bring with me the experiences that I was fortunate enough to have in this country and abroad," said Reynolds. "I always pursued my education and I completed what I started."
The study of sociology — the development, structure and function of human societies — "will make me the very unique candidate for your communities," she said.
"My opponents have some great strengths," said Zemke. "However, 17 years with the County Clerk's Office will give me (the advantage)."
Calling himself the "chicken gumbo of candidates," Crow said that his background in technology and management, his strong work ethic, and the fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously all make him the best candidate.
"Overall, I have well-rounded experience," said Dubisar, who has managed an office and staff, while handling technology and doing budgets. "I'm very self-motivated and I learn things really quickly."
Ballots were sent out last week, and should have arrived in mailboxes by this week. Call the Clerk's Office at 541-475-4451 if you haven't received your ballot. Ballots are due back by Tuesday, May 15.