Past commissioner passes on June 6
Walt Ponsford, a longtime Madras High School teacher and a former Jefferson County Commissioner, died on June 6. He was 85.
Ponsford came to Madras as a young man to teach at Madras Union High School. He would invest his entire teaching career at the Madras school. Along with teaching English, social studies and history, Ponsford also led the drama program for years.
Ponsford was also a longtime farmer from his place on the north end of the Agency Plains, and he stayed very busy and active after retiring as a teacher.
Ponsford was known as a leader within the Jefferson County Democratic Party throughout most of his adult life. He ran unsuccessfully for state representative twice in the early 1970s. He lost a race for county commissioner in 1998 against Bill Bellamy, and unsuccessfully challenged Greg Walden for his U.S. Congressional seat in 2000.
In 2002, Ponsford was elected commissioner in a race fueled by the divisive issue of an East Coast-based power company's (Cogentrix) plans to establish a power plant in the county between Madras and Prineville. Against the concept of the power plant, Ponsford ran a joint campaign with Republican Mary Zemke, who was a leader in the anti-Cogentrix movement. Both were elected, largely because of widespread backing at Crooked River Ranch. Ponsford received more votes than any of the four candidates that ran that year for the two positions.
In 2006, Ponsford lost his re-election when he was defeated by Republican John Hatfield in the general election.
Ponsford was well known for his calm and kind yet thoughtful and serious demeanor as a politician and in his every day life.
No service has been set at this time. Family has indicated that a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
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