Ballots for Oregon's May 19 primary election hit mailboxes this week and voters will begin making their selections for who will lead our communities and state out of these strange times into the future. While many of the hot-ticket races will be contested in the fall, Clackamas County has a handful of important commission seats up for grab.
With a track record of proven success in Oregon's vote-by-mail system, Clackamas County residents should feel empowered to continue staying at home through this COVID-19 pandemic, but still getting out to vote and making their voices heard through the ballot. This is also the first election that you don't even have to put a stamp on your ballot to mail it back, thanks to a new state law.
Whether you're looking to freshen up your representation or stick with proven leaders, you'll have plenty of decisions to make in the 2020 primary election.
Bernard, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, tells Pamplin Media Group that he's running for a second term because he wants to offer county citizens some stability in these troubled times.
"We need to have a strong budget for the future, and we need to make sure that we follow the process of bringing the economy back," Bernard said. And we need stable, solid relationships with our regional partners."
Fostering relationships at the local and state level are a keystone of Bernard's platform, and he touts himself as an effective leader in having rebuilt damaged relationships between the county, its municipalities and other agencies such as Metro and Trimet. He also views himself as an agent to bring Clackamas County into regional discussions that pave the road forward in terms of helping our communities solve tough issues such as housing and infrastructure improvements.
"Building relationships is probably the most important part of my job," Bernard said.
According to Bernard, his focus will be to help strategize a safe, data-driven and regional approach to bringing Clackamas County's economy back online when health experts say it's time.
Smith is no newcomer to the county's political arena. The former state representative, county commissioner and one-time congressional candidate has ample experience in the field of governing and listening to constituents.
A fourth-generation Clackamas County resident and hazelnut farmer, Smith's biggest qualm with current leadership is what she characterizes as a disregard for the working family's bottomline.
"I've seen what our local county government is doing and they're supporting taxes, and taxes at a time when the Oregon legislature is doing the same thing," Smith said. "I don't see how that is helping our ordinary citizens."
Smith said she would advocate for portions of the county outside of Metro's service district to be disassociated from Metro taxation.
"There's this big sucking sound of Portland trying to suck us into their tax schemes," she said. "We have increased homelessness, we have increased crime… we have 1,400 miles of roads in the county, you think Metro is helping with those? No, they're not. We cannot abdicate control of Clackamas County to any regional or state government."
Commissioner Position #3:
According to Schrader, her main reason for seeking reelection is because she loves Clackamas County, and she believes she has the know-how to help bring the local economy safely out of this pandemic with her team fellow commissioners and county staff when the time is right.
"After coming out of this crisis that we're in right now with the coronavirus, I think we need to continue to have really experienced leaders such as myself," Schrader said. "Right now the economy is in a coma. When the time comes, when the curve is bending and getting next to nothing, we're going to have to figure out how we're going to re-emerge from this, and I'm the person who could do that."
She sees the county's diverse landscape from the urban centers to the rural and sometimes wild landscape as a strength and part of what makes it a great place to live, work and play.
Restarting the local economy to get people back to work, supporting local tourism and fostering regional relationships to be better prepared for the future are Schrader's near-term goals.
Affordable housing and helping to solve the homelessness crisis are also on her list of things to continue working on and see through to completion, as well as redevelopment projects like the county courthouse and proposed Park Avenue zoning changes in Oak Grove.
"I have a record of successes with major projects, not the least of which was actually helping to stabilize our library system," she said. "I have good relationships with our citizens and throughout the county with our community planning organizations."
Deep roots in the community and a passion for service are what drive Osburn to run for commissioner. Osburn entered the local political arena in 2017 when he ran unsuccessfully for Gladstone City Council. He then led a successful recall campaign against two councilors he believed weren't serving their constituents well with a lawsuit against the county over funding to redevelop the city's library.
Now, Osburn believes that the county isn't listening to the will of its citizens and wants to be the force which changes that.
"What we've seen, along partisan lines, is that the commissioners have decided, in my opinion, that people aren't smart enough to decide how to spend their own money," he said.
In particular, Osburn references the passing of the annual countywide vehicle-registration fee in 2019 despite voters having turned it down on the ballot in 2016. He'd like to see residents not only have a voice on taxation matters, but to actually be heard.
Osbrun also believes that party politics are ruining American democracy, and, as a non-affiliated voter, he's committed to working for the people rather than a party or special interest.
You might say that Geier has an avant-garde view of how county government should operate. He's advocating for county employees to be allowed to come up with big ideas such as creating publicly held businesses with the intent of creating revenue for the county. He wants to see a pilot program in which everyday citizens can train with the sheriff's office as volunteer in an effort to root out discrimination and improve community policing.
He also believes the county could implement LED lighting in all buildings and other infrastructure as a cost-saving measure.
Despite some interesting proposals for the county, Geier isn't shy about his ambition, admitting that he sees the county commission as a stepping stone to get to the White House someday.
Commissioner Position #4:
In many ways, Humberston's reelection campaign is tethered to Chair Jim Bernard's. Both want to continue serving to help pull the county out of this economic slump instigated by the pandemic when the time comes. Both want to continue fostering relationships with state and regional partners to form stronger communities within the county. Their campaign websites even have the same branding.
But Humberston says he's his own man with his own ideas, and he's committed to serving the county's residents for another four years by helping to bring family-wage jobs to rural parts of the county where they're needed most, as well as continuing essential services to provide a safety net for those most vulnerable.
"The original reasons I ran still stand true, and that is that building good, cooperative, working relationships with Metro and our neighboring counties is beneficial to the citizens of Clackamas County," he said.
One of Humberston's crowning achievements of the last four years was working with his fellow commissioners and others to attract the Sauter Timber manufacturing facility to Estacada.
"I want to continue to work on that project and expand that industry in Clackamas County, because I believe we are ideally situated," he said. "We have the workforce, we have the older facilities that can be repurposed and we have the market, not only in our county, but in the other two counties right next door."
He believes the county has done a good job so far in its response to COVID-19, but it's going to take a lot more planning and hard work to get the local economy back on its feet.
"My personal feeling is that if you want to rebuild the economy, we need infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure," Humberston said. "We need to be putting people back to work and be actually building things, as well as be making the actual things you build with."
Over the past four years, Shull has become increasingly involved in local politics. He has served as a precinct committeeman, district captain for House District 52 and most recently as leader of the Sandy-area Republicans organization.
After considering a run for the legislature, Shull felt the time was right for him to dive in head first and see where he could make a difference for his local community.
"I want to represent the people of Clackamas County, not any external political entity or special interests," Shull said. "People of this county feel underrepresented and the county's current idea of transparency is too opaque."
Engagement and transparency are the two cornerstones of Shull's campaign, and, if elected, he plans to use those tenets in an effort to advocate for taxpayers who feel barraged by both the county and state. In speaking with constituents, he feels that the housing shortage, homelessness and traffic congestion are the issues requiring more attention from county commissioners.
A 25-year military veteran, Shull describes his brand of politics as "selfless devotion to duty," and promises to be a man of the people with zero allegiance to anyone but the county's citizens.
"I'm totally fresh and available to the people," Shull said. "I have no (connection) to Metro or anything else that might have an agenda in conflict with the people of Clackamas County."
Sagdal describes herself as an advocate and grassroots leader fighting for her community and neighbors. She's been vocal on a number of local and statewide issues, from denouncing cap-and-trade legislation in the statehouse to championing property rights and better funding for public safety in her own county. Sagdall is the type who's not afraid to speak her mind.
"I am running for county commissioner because I could no longer as a business owner and mother continue seeing the lack of leadership in our county and at our state legislature," she wrote in a letter to Pamplin Media Group. "We need fresh, proven leadership especially in these challenging times for the work we have ahead to recover, thrive and become more equitable and prosperous."
According to Sagdal, strategizing a county-specific plan for reopening the local economy, adhering to a strict budget, reviewing and fixing inefficiencies in the county's criminal justice system and helping get the county's environmental and forest management policies on the right track are her main priorities.
"We also must put an end to tax dollars being taken from hardworking people in Clackamas County to be given to other counties, particularly Multnomah County," she wrote. "Our money should be used to enrich our communities, not other counties who can't keep their budgets in check."
Sagdal believes that, if elected, she could build consensus and work with county staff and her fellow commissioners to improve quality of life across the board. She also promises to be a fierce advocate for the bottomline of each and every household in the county.
"You should elect me if you want to see livelihoods expand, lives and well-being improved and our communities protected from the politics of yesterday," Sagdall wrote.
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