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Our last readers' mailbag before Election Day features more than a dozen election-related letters.

Tardif is the candidate of transparency

On March 11 of this year, I went to a commissioner candidates' meeting at the Kozy Korner.

One of the things Alex Tardif remarked on was the commissioners' salary. The jobs are part-time, and the salary needs to be reduced by quite a bit. Brandee Dudzic agreed, but Casey Garrett thought the salary was OK.

When people run for these positions, they claim to be so interested in what is good and right for us and the county, yet they are recipients of compensation that is way out of line, and we aren't seeing the benefits of their efforts (and I use "efforts" lightly). I don't know how these income levels came about, but shouldn't it be changed?

Alex's part in dealing with the Janet Evans situation ("County dismissed complaints against former parole department head") proves he took it very seriously and didn't want to "go along just to get along." Two of the commissioners did not even want to see all the facts. Is this the way all complaints against employees are dealt with?

Read our Oct. 9, 2020, story on Columbia County's handling of complaints against its former parole department head.

Alex has made quite a difference in our county because of his financial experience and his concern for the best interest of the citizens. Gentleman, farmer and loving father is getting my vote, and I hope he will get your vote, because we really need him to stay right where he is.

Brandee Dudzic will also get my vote because of her progressive ways and ideals to move this county forward. She is available to the people, and I believe she will be willing to listen to all of us like Alex does and not sit behind a closed door.

We need people who understand life as we know it.

Elaine Widmer, Warren

Money talks, but only if we listen to it

Something I've noticed everyone agrees on, whether they be red or blue, is that big money in campaign finance is bad.

For decades, money has been pumped into political campaigns with real results. The jury is in: Money wins elections.

For almost as long, there has been the outcry that something must change. Campaign finance reform, it's called. But through the years, it seems very little has been done to affect it.

There is one way to combat big money in politics: Do your research.

Instead of voting for the familiar name, face and happy family you've become accustomed to seeing plastered on billboards and roadside political signs, check out the candidates. Just because there's an "R" or "D" next to their name doesn't automatically make them the best one for the job.

Take for example our race here in Columbia County for Judge of the Circuit Court, 19th District, Position 3. Leading up to the primary, the challenger, Michael Clarke, clearly had an extensive campaign budget with loads of street signs, billboards, and a snappy Facebook page. Meanwhile, the incumbent, Jenefer Grant, did not.

Mike Clarke won the primary by less than 1.0% (0.75% to be exact) despite having relatively little trial experience for someone running to be a judge, whose job is to preside over trials. Sure, he's a local guy. But is he the guy just because he speaks platitudes like "things aren't right" and "we can do better?"

Jenefer Grant, on the other hand, has been an attorney since 1992 and taught business ethics at Portland State. She began practicing law in Columbia County in 1996 and has been serving as our judge since 2007 (almost as long as Clarke has been an attorney), developing relationships with county stakeholders like the Sheriff's Office and the Juvenile Department, working to settle cases to avoid costly and drawn-out trials, and, most importantly, has the compassion to really seek out what is going on with cases and the people involved to achieve the best end possible. Also, scads of endorsements from people who really know what it's all about.

So who's the best for the job?

Money in politics works. Our only defense is to make educated decisions ourselves. Vote with your brain, not your gut, bearing in mind the contents of each.

H. Weston Drumheller, Warren

We need more leaders like Dudzic

I am writing to encourage folks to vote for Brandee Dudzic for Columbia County commissioner, Position 1.

I am a retired 9-1-1 operator and I know what it takes to make a community safe. Brandee's passion for investing in our youth and most vulnerable community members will pay huge dividends.

I was so touched when Brandee opened up the Law Library for unsheltered folks on a snowy night before the warming shelter had opened. We need more elected officials that lead with empathy and compassion.

But Brandee is more than just a kind person, she is highly intelligent and extremely hardworking. Any person who can work full-time, while obtaining her master's degree and raising three kids, has the multitasking skills needed to be successful in government.

Brandee's degrees are in social science and conflict resolution. I can't think of any better expertise to have as an elected official than the study of relationships and resolving conflict.

I hope you will join me in voting for Brandee Dudzic for county commissioner, Position 1.

Georgiana Gordon, St. Helens

Scappoose should elect Baldwin to council seat

Join me in voting Marty Baldwin for Scappoose City Council.

I've known Marty for over a decade. He is sincere, dedicated, energetic, business-minded, involved. He will make a positive difference in Scappoose leadership, bringing business experience and years of service in our community. His platform is anchored with respect for the citizens of Scappoose and his willingness to listen, serve, and protect our community investments.

Marty will lead with integrity and put citizens values first, balancing the budget, and shoulder the important work of steering us forward in difficult times.

Sarah Havlik, Scappoose

Let's finally legalize campaign finance limits

Should people on the other side of the country be able to pour money into Oregon political races?

Voters, pass this one: Oregon Ballot Measure 107 would amend our constitution to allow laws limiting campaign contributions.

Oregon is just one of five states that don't limit campaign money; that's why we see big money from both in-state and out of state political groups and those with private agendas, driving state government races and ballot measures. Measure 107 would allow the state and local governments to put limits on campaign spending.

2018's governor's race chewed through nearly $40 million. Let's fix this.

Sue Bliss, Hillsboro

Thatcher has proven ability to bridge partisan divide

I write this letter in support of Kim Thatcher for secretary of state. Although I am a registered Libertarian, I am crossing party lines and will vote for Kim Thatcher enthusiastically.

Throughout her political career, I have seen Kim Thatcher cross party lines to listen to different ideas, work with the people who hold them, and frequently accommodate their priorities (even when she does not share them) in the interests of good civics. These qualities are hallmarks of a great secretary of state and are especially important now because of the divisive nature of today's politics.

As the late Dennis Richardson proved, a Republican can serve constructively in a Democratic state like Oregon for the good of us all. Party labels notwithstanding, Kim Thatcher's brand of nonpartisan governance is what will bring Oregonians closer together, making it possible to resume building on the best of what we are. For these reasons, I urge everyone across all party lines to vote Kim Thatcher for secretary of state.

Richard P. Burke, Tigard

Witt stands for local businesses

I am a local business owner and I will be voting for state Rep. Brad Witt.

I appreciate that Brad takes a personal interest in the lives of his constituents and supports local businesses like mine. It's been a challenging year, and it's comforting to know that I have a representative in Salem who really gets what it takes to be effective for us at home.

When thousands of Oregonians were let down by the employment department, it was Brad who stood up and called for an investigation. It's Brad who is drafting a bill to give businesses an avenue for pandemic interruption insurance. And it is Brad who I will be voting to re-elect as state representative.

Carol A. Cross

Owner, St. Helens Auto Body

Witt has earned constituent's vote

In these days of divisive politics, where many politicians use misinformation to divide and polarize us, we are lucky to have a man of Brad Witt's character, knowledge and skill as our representative in the Oregon Legislature.

I have found that Brad works extremely hard to understand the interest of all his constituents and works to develop consensus solutions, based on facts, that can best address those multiple interests. He works to bring us together for our success, not drive us apart towards failure and frustration. This is what good government is all about.

Brad demands governmental accountability, such as his insistence on a full audit of the Oregon Employment Department for their failure to get much-needed benefits to unemployed Oregonians out of work due to COVID-19.

Brad's commitment to the middle class, working families, improving schools and honoring our veterans reflects his personal values developed by someone who has worked shoulder-to-shoulder in our sawmills with working Americans and fighting for their benefit.

Brad has been a proven leader in Salem, working with multiple stakeholders to address job creation, healthcare affordability, homelessness, opioid treatment, education, and protecting wildlife and natural resources.

Like our senator, Betsy Johnson, Brad has proven that he is willing to work tirelessly for his constituents.

We need to learn to work together to solve our problems. We have more in common than what divides us. We need a uniter, not a divider.

Greg Pettit, Warren

Garrett's leadership style isn't a good fit for his job, or the job he wants

I was a longtime Columbia County resident and have personally worked with the county parks department and have had many dealing with county employees. I read with great interest the Spotlight's article concerning Casey Garrett and his management dealings.

I am now retired. In corporate life, I have come across many management styles, from ruthless Machiavellian authoritarians to laissez-faire bosses. I have seen managers succeed using a broad spectrum of personality. Successful management approaches are dependent on the context of task responsibilities and personnel makeup.

Read our Oct. 14, 2020, report on personnel complaints against Casey Garrett in Columbia County.

Casey Garrett is definitely a good project manager, but that does not necessarily make a good department head.

Park management serves many competing user groups (hiking, biking, ATV, equestrian, fishing, boating and many other recreational activities). The same is true for county commissioner (competing user groups). Napoleons, Borgias or project managers are not necessarily the best style to serve a diverse public.

Park use is dictated by popularity and popularity is created by enthusiastic people with vision. Over the last couple years, the parks and roads department has been restructured and has seen some staff turnover. It is now managed by a different leadership style.

There is a broad spectrum of leadership styles, from absolute authoritarianism to mob rule. Somewhere in between is democracy.

The trick of real leadership is to make everyone pull on the same oars — something that Casey Garrett has struggled with during his tenure as a parks director.

I ask each voter, what type of ship captain do you want? A slave-driven galley where only the elites arrive happy? Or a Viking ship where everyone arrives with the same committed goals? The answer depends on leadership style and your vote.

Rory Hammond, Dunes City

This doctor's vote is for Witt

As a practicing physician, I am voting for Brad Witt this November.

We need more advocates in Salem who understand that science, rather than politics, should be the driving force behind medicine.

Brad is a staunch defender of vaccines in the battle against preventative disease. He has also worked to cut the cost of prescription drugs and voted to protect healthcare coverage for millions.

Since the start of the pandemic, Brad and his staff have placed thousands of well check calls to constituents, me included. Brad and his staff helped me get a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for my medical office when no one else would.

I am so thankful to have a representative who sincerely cares about the health and well-being of his district. I hope you'll join me in supporting state Rep. Brad Witt.

Dr. Maureen E. Mays, Northwest Portland

Port of Columbia County commissioner and wife back Witt

Government functions best when local leadership is in tune with the challenges and opportunities we face.

State Rep. Brad Witt has helped our citizens navigate the intricacies of the state agencies to resolve concerns that they have. He and his staff always respond quickly to constituent concerns. This has been particularly important for residents and businesses struggling in the pandemic economy. He understands how healthcare insurance suddenly vanished for people and wants affordable high-quality medical insurance options available.

Rep. Witt deeply values the quality of life we have in Columbia County. His advocacy for well-paid jobs that build a strong, talented, and future-focused workforce is crystal clear.

Finally, Rep. Witt has become a significant statewide player in resolving the natural resource issues that come before the House committee that he has chaired.

Rep. Brad Witt is, in our view, the kind of hard-working, thoughtful, and responsive ally that we need in Salem.

Chip and Nancy Bubl, Warren

Garrett shouldn't disparage county employees

I worked for Columbia County for 16 years. I left the county a couple of years before Casey Garrett was hired, so I didn't have interactions with him through my county employment. I have had interactions with him through parks meetings.

I want to defend those county employees that have been made out to be disgruntled, not putting much effort in their work, or "entitled." I worked with those employees of Facility Maintenance and they were always responsive to the needs of the county, they did excellent work, and they got along well with all other employees and the public. If you needed something fixed or changed, the job got done.

In the Parks Department, Lori Baker was an excellent employee, and she was on top of getting and keeping the parks in great shape. If there was a maintenance issue with any of the parks, she would make sure that work order was taken care of and the issue was repaired.

I enjoyed working with all of the county employees. They were all dedicated to doing a good job.

Refer to Lori Baker's Oct. 9, 2020, letter to the editor concerning her experience working for Casey Garrett.

Since Casey Garrett has taken over as the parks director, I've noticed in the last couple of years that some deterioration at the parks because maintenance isn't being done and the public is being put in harm's way. Restrooms aren't being cleaned daily. Work orders have sat for a year.

It saddened me to hear that the county employees were being discredited by Casey Garrett. I wanted to stand up for them and to let the public know that they can count on the employees of this county.

Gloria Rice, St. Helens

4-H support an example of why Witt deserves re-election

I am voting to re-elect Brad Witt for state representative.

There is no comparison between the candidates; Brad has the experience, the education, and the empathy to do the job. He teaches civic involvement to children and teens in Columbia County by being both a role model and a human being truly interested in keeping youth programs like 4-H alive.

He values the country lifestyle. Year after year I have seen Brad at the Columbia County Fair walking the barns, talking to the 4-H kids, and spending money at the auction. I personally remember Brad Witt taking the time to ask me about my 4-H dairy goat project and I have seen him support 4-Hers by purchasing their animals at the Columbia County Fair auction.

Brad is a staunch supporter of 4-H. He understands how life-changing this program can be for our youth because he was a 4-H member himself.

Brad understands that being a representative is like having a 4-H project. It's more than flag-waving — it's hard work and requires dedication.

I hope you'll join me in supporting our most dedicated representative: Brad Witt.

Chava Wolin, St. Helens

County workers support Dudzic for commissioner

I am writing to encourage everybody to vote for Brandee Dudzic for Columbia County commissioner, Position 1.

With all the news about the poor leadership, toxic work environment, and culture of secrecy in our county, I think we are all ready for a change.

It's pretty telling that the union for the employees of the Columbia County Courthouse chose to endorse Brandee, even though her opponent's office is in the courthouse. This is also the union that represents the employees of the road department, another department that has been affected by mismanagement within the county.

AFSME Local 697 has endorsed Brandee Dudzic for county commissioner because they trust that she will have the safety and well-being of county employees in mind when making policy.

Brandee is the fresh face we need here in Columbia County. She is not beholden to anyone but her constituents — she doesn't take gas, coal, oil, or timber money.

If you want an elected official that actually cares about you and your family, elect Brandee Dudzic for county commissioner.

Rebekah Mathers, St. Helens

Baldwin, a caring grandfather, will be a caring councilor as well

For the entire 16 years that I have known my grandpa, Marty Baldwin, I cannot remember a time when he hasn't been there for me.

On the day I was born, his first grandchild and only granddaughter, he was given the nickname "Pop." Pop has always been my biggest cheerleader in everything I have ever tried to do.

Every basketball game from the time I was in third grade, I knew that if I looked up into the stands, I would see him cheering for me, although usually I heard him cheering before I saw him. He would hug me after every game, thrilled to share in my excitement when I won, and ready to console me when I lost. I remember games that had come too close and resulted in losses by only a few points, and he was there when I came out of the locker room in tears, prepared to simply give me a much-needed hug.

He also taught me how to drive, which had to have been a terrifying experience, but he was always calm and patient.

When I sprained my ankle in a basketball game freshman year, he handled the situation with a level head and took great care of me. He also drove me to every single one of my physical therapy appointments, and checked in on me to make sure I was doing my exercises.

When you fill out your ballot this year, make sure you think about the people that you're voting for. Who do you want to represent you? There's no one I could think of that would better represent me than Pop, to handle situations with calmness and a level head, to be there for the things I want to celebrate, and most of all, to pick me up when I fall down. These are the things he has done and continues to do for me every day, and he is one of the people I rely on the most.

I believe he can do the same things for you as your city councilor, and you will find that he is someone you can always rely on as well.

Molly Hagen, Scappoose


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