Starrett seeks third term as commissioner
Two-term Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett is seeking a hat trick this May.
Elected for the first time in 2014 and again in 2018, Starrett will face off against Oregon Oncology Specialists clinic manager Doris Towery for Position 3 on the county Board of Commissioners.
Starrett has resided near Newberg with her husband, Ron, since 1994. In addition to serving as a county commissioner, Starrett is also a part of several boards, including YCAP, Yamhill County Board of Health, Chehalem Youth and Family Services and Christian Family Adoptions. Additionally, she is chairwoman of Northwest Senior and Disability Services.
A broadcast journalist for 25 years, Starrett said she learned "the importance of acknowledging there are several sides to a story" and the detriment that "running with a prevailing narrative without considering all the information available and vetting it for accuracy" has on the public.
"Similarly, as an elected official, I've maintained a commitment to consider all sides of an issue," Starrett said. "That can mean asking tough questions and challenging the status quo while remaining focusing on advocating for the people of our county."
Starrett made the switch from journalist to politician "to safeguard the qualify of life here" in Yamhill County. The native of Brooklyn, New York, she moved to the county 30 years ago because of its "long-standing culture of limited government, lower taxation and community involvement."
"Our county has maintained those ideals even as neighboring counties have experienced a decline in all those areas, due, in part to heavy-handed government," Starrett said in an email interview. And she wants to keep it that way.
She has lived in eight counties, including Clackamas and Multnomah, and has realized over the years that public policy at the county level can heavily affect the community's quality of life, "including its economic vitality, public safety and overall physical and behavioral health," she said.
While in office for the past eight years, Starrett said she has noted that "lower property taxes, a streamlined building process and business friendly climate, along with a commitment to support our first responders" have made Yamhill County stand out as a great place to lay down roots.
"We've connected with businesses who chose to relocate to Yamhill County from neighboring counties," Starrett said. "One such company made the move from a property they owned in a neighboring county because our planning department and business climate were more amenable to business growth."
The county planning department's track record of supporting property owners in comparison to other counties is worth safeguarding, she added.
Starrett also lauded the county for being a model for collaboration between state and county agencies, nonprofits and faith-based organizations to meet the needs of children and families in the community — partnerships she seeks to nurture and eventually increase.
"Now, more than ever, our attention must be focused on children and families," Starrett said, especially those struggling to overcome consequences of abuse, addiction and "the lingering impacts of Gov. Brown's COVID policies."
She attributed the mental health issues that have arisen from the pandemic to those policies, arguing that young people will struggle with the repercussions years into the future.
Starrett said she also is passionate about child welfare issues.
A foster child mentor and advocate, Starrett said she has worked to improve transparency and placement options both county and statewide, such as championing a state/county child welfare hybrid system.
Starrett said she has worked with local child and family advocates, a local pregnancy resource organization and a faith-based foster option program "to strengthen and support at-risk children and families and affirm the value of every life."
Other priorities include supporting county recovery courts and addiction and mental health services, as well as collaborating with the Housing Authority, the Affordable Housing Corporation and Senior and Disability Services.
"I've championed support for returning home equity to those who've lost their homes to tax foreclosure, promoted a foreclosure avoidance program in collaboration with our tax assessor and the housing authority, and spearheaded a bill in the Oregon Legislature to prevent theft of equity," Starrett said.
Starrett also addressed the county's lack of housing options, which she said is due to Oregon's strict land-use laws that have resulted in regulatory fees and system development charges.
"Homeownership has become prohibitive for many Oregon families," Starrett said. "I'll continue to advocate for a more reasoned approach to land use and the opportunity for housing options in all prices ranges."
While serving as a charter member of a suicide prevention organization, she worked with various state and local nonprofit organizations to bring prevention training to the county and find methods of connecting with populations least likely to seek support.
On top of those issues, Starrett plans to continue supporting the partnership between McMinnville's youth drop-in center and Newberg's YCAP Youth Outreach, as well as collaborating with the county to manifest the family services endeavor "one stop shop" and improving assistance for foster children and their families.
As for Yamhill County's problem with homelessness, Starrett said homelessness itself "is too often the result of addiction and mental health issues" and that "simply throwing money at programs that don't address those first and foremost will not result in fewer people who are homeless."
"Many of the policies we've supported have made things worse instead of better," Starrett said. "Much of the conventional wisdom regarding homelessness has led to failed policies."
She added that the county needs to focus more on solving the substance abuse crisis, which is a driving force for homelessness and rising crime and violence rates.
Starrett said she is proud of what she has accomplished as a county commissioner, especially the actions she took to fight against state government overreach, defend property rights and monitor how taxes were being spent in the county.
She also lauded her choices to champion medical freedom, keeping businesses open during the pandemic, overruling Covid executive orders, parent notification for minor immunization, vaccine informed consent, opposing vaccine passports, protecting county employees from being fired due to vaccine mandates and passing the county's Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance.
Starrett even testified in federal court against school closures and supported first responders and healthcare employees in their lawsuit against vaccine mandates.
Starrett is endorsed by Taxpayers Association of Oregon, PACS Yamhill County Agriculture, Yamhill First, Oregon Right to Life, Oregon Family Farm Association, Oregon Firearms Federation and COPS, as well as state Sens. Kim Thatcher and Brian Boquist, the Oregon Property Owners Association, Oregonians for Medical Freedom, Stand for Health Freedom and retired Newberg-Dundee Police Chief Brian Casey and Sergeant Mark Cooke.
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