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St. Helens school board member is first candidate for the county office up for election in 2022.

COURTESY PHOTO: KELLIE SMITH - St. Helens school board member and business owner Kellie Smith filed to run for Columbia County board of commissioners in 2022.A St. Helens elected official has entered the race for the Columbia County commissioner seat up for election next year.

Kellie Smith, a St. Helens school board member and owner of the bowling alley Oregon Trail Lanes, announced her run for office Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Position 2 on the county board of commissioners, currently held by Henry Heimuller, is up for election in May.

In a press release announcing her run, Smith said her goals if elected include to "bring our communities together, provide opportunities for our youth and to help bring more well paying jobs to Columbia County so more people can work local and have more time to spend with their families."

Activities for kids are a priority, Smith said, noting the success of the St. Helens Recreation Center.

"There's not a lot to do right here unless there's a recreational activity, (which) keeps them out of trouble and keeps them less depressed, basically," Smith said.

Smith and her husband are also foster parents. Between biological, adopted and foster children, the couple currently has nine kids in the house.

Smith didn't point to specific shortcomings of the current county board of commissioners.

"I don't know that there's a lot of room to improve, necessarily. I want to continue to bring jobs into the communities so that people can stay rural and not have to commute so much," she said.

Having been most focused on the school board and bowling alley in recent years, Smith said she still has a lot to learn.

"There are a lot of countywide measures and activities that they've been doing that I haven't followed completely," Smith said. "I'm going to continue to keep learning … and form my own opinions on certain things, I just don't have them right now."

But as a small business owner, Smith was closely watching how the county supported businesses through the pandemic.

"I think they did a great job getting the (personal protective equipment) out there, the grants that they have offered, the opportunities to help us get some funding while we're sitting here closed especially," Smith said.

As new residents move into the county, "we need to make sure that we have a place for them to work so that we don't just continue to make it a commuter city," Smith said.

Smith has co-chaired two bond committees for the St. Helens School District: one that built St. Helens Middle School and Plymouth High School, and another that is overseeing the St. Helens High School renovations that are underway now.

Smith has served on the school board since 2013, when she won in a three-way race by less than 100 votes. Smith won re-election in unopposed races in 2017 and 2021.

Smith said she will continue her position on the school board, which ends in 2025, if elected.

"My heart is definitely still with the school district," Smith said.

While Columbia County commissioner is a salaried full-time job, St. Helens school board member is a volunteer position.


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