Candidates for Marion County Commission answer questions from the Woodburn Independent

Two of the three Marion County commissioner positions are open this election, with Janet Carlson not seeking re-election. That leaves her spot, Position 2, open for the taking, and Colm Willis and Bill Burgess will battle it out to see who will take her place. Position 1 incumbent Kevin Cameron is running again, facing challenger Shelaswau Crier. The election is Nov. 6.


Marion County Commissioner Position 1

Kevin Cameron

COURTESY PHOTO -  Kevin Cameron

Relevant Experience:

— Co-founder and CEO of Cafe Today LLC (1995-present)

— Oregon State Representative (February 2005-June 2014): served on judiciary, business and labor, transportation and other committees during my tenure

— Governor's Re-entry Council (2007-present)

— Marion County Commissioner (June 2014-present)

— Oregon State Fair Counsel (2014-present)

— United Way Board member

— Willamette Workforce Executive Counsel

— SEDCOR Board member and executive counsel

Why are you running?

To continue helping Marion County be a place where we can all live, work and play in a thriving economy and raise our families to be healthy and well educated. We have achieved some important results during the past four years, but we have challenges ahead of us that will require deep analysis and input from our community.

What are the three biggest issues facing the county, specifically northern Marion County?

1. Managing the economic growth and finding housing for the workforce that will be added to this growth: Homelessness is a county-wide issue and we will need to work with our local leaders to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide affordable housing. Land use and preserving our rich farm lands will be critical while managing smart growth.

2. Public safety improvements: homelessness, mental health and addiction are impacting our public safety. We will need to make sure all resources are being used efficiently to keep our neighborhoods and rural areas safe and livable for all. Traffic growth also plays a role in our lives and we will need to continue engineering, educating and enforcing to keep us all safe on the road system that sees ongoing increased usage.

3. Environmental quality: This includes managing our water quality and quantity for our citizens' health and our agricultural production. We have challenges ahead in our recycling and other environmental services that will require some investments. The waste-to-energy facility in Brooks generates enough renewable power to light up the city of Woodburn, but it is reaching capacity with the economic growth that has occurred.

What three things would you like to accomplish if elected?

1. The Woodburn Urban Growth boundary took 20 years to get expanded. There is now an opportunity to bring more affordable housing and jobs to this area. I will work with the local leaders to make sure the county does its part to bring the resources to this area to manage this important growth in North Marion County.

2. The Aurora Airport is an important asset to North Marion County and I will continue to work with the Oregon Department of Aviation, our Congressional delegation, local business owners and leaders to make sure this asset serves our region to its fullest potential.

3. Marion County has developed a Strategic Economic Development Plan. I will lead and oversee the implementation of this plan that leads with our agricultural heritage. We are the number one farm/ag producing county in the state. Future success will depend on the investment in technology that will secure our leadership role in the state, country and around the world. This innovative approach will take time and visionary leadership to make sure we are competitive globally in agriculture.

Three reasons you are the best candidate for the job:

1. My experience in business and helping great individuals be the best they can be. To be successful in the restaurant business over my entire career you have to be a good listener and leader.

2. My experience in the legislature and as county commissioner. Marion County hosts the State Capitol in Salem and the relationships with our state leaders is critical to obtaining the resources and legislation needed for us to be successful. I have good relationships with Sen. Courtney and others that have helped us in the past and will in the future.

3. My work ethic: I started as a very young boy working in the agriculture industry, hauling hay, moving irrigation pipe, etc. I started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher and worked for others until starting our own business over 23 years ago. I still work long hard hours as your county commissioner and will continue to do so if elected again.


I love the outdoors, enjoy water skiing, wakeboard and surfing. I lived in Salem for 30 years, but recently moved my full-time residence to Detroit Lake. I spend many hours with our citizens in the rural parts of Marion County, both in the canyon and in the northern part of the county. I have three grandsons and one of those will be born in October after I write this document. I love them with my whole heart! My two daughters have great jobs here in Oregon; one is bilingual and teaches Spanish.

Shelaswau Crier

COURTESY PHOTO - Shelaswau Crier

Relevant experience:

I'm currently a legal instructor for the Oregon police academy and an educational consultant to Oregon Department of Education. I've been a middle school math teacher, attorney in private practice, and a law professor at Willamette University and Loyola University New Orleans. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics (honors) from Rice University and a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School.

I have served on the Oregon Youth Authority advisory committee and the ODE School Discipline and African American/Black Student Success advisory committees. I served as a prosecutor for the state and federal governments while a student at Yale and as a law clerk after law school.

Why are you running? I am a first-time candidate because it is a position from which I can directly contribute to my community. The county provides a number of essential services, ranging from housing, health care and public safety services to economic development efforts and regulations protecting our farms, forests and parks. The commissioners direct county policy and adopt the county budget. They also provide leadership and lobby on behalf of our community at all levels of government. I am a long-time community advocate and am deeply committed to improving the accessibility of the services the county provides. I have the energy, determination and vision to provide effective leadership.

What are the three biggest issues facing the city?

The three biggest issues facing Marion County generally are affordable housing and homelessness, accessibility to health care (including mental health and substance abuse services), and living wage jobs. Of particular concern in north Marion County is accessibility to county services that are currently offered predominantly in Salem. North Marion County also faces the brunt of traffic problems caused by growth coming from the north and the challenge of balancing that growth with the need to preserve fertile farm lands.

What three things would you like to accomplish if elected?

The primary thing I would like to accomplish is purposely seeking and including the voices of the community when determining priorities and developing solutions. My list of priority issues comes directly from my experience walking across the county for the past several months, engaging in conversations with residents at their homes, community gatherings, coffee shops, restaurants and public forums. As the county tackles these issues, I will actively include the voices of the community, especially that of those personally affected by an issues and those who work in that area day to day in the trenches.

I will work to:

• increase the supply of affordable housing to reduce homelessness and reduce the burden on working families;

• improve access to quality health care in the county, particularly mental health, addiction services, transitional services and health education;

• attract employers who provide quality living wage jobs with good benefits and working conditions and reducing youth underemployment through increasing the supply of such jobs and better pathways to obtaining them.

Addressing issues like affordable housing and homelessness, accessibility to health services and pathways to living wage jobs requires effective use of resources. Effective use of Marion County resources includes not only efficient use of tax payer dollars but also creating community and multi-county coalitions, public-private partnerships and partnerships with other government agencies. If our commissioners spend time and energy expanding such collaborations, we can multiply our resources and provide better services.

Three reasons you are the best candidate for the job:

I am the best candidate because I have the professional experience, skills and drive to communicate with diverse groups of people to develop collaborative, effective solutions for the issues we face. Marion County is changing, and it is time for the board of commissioners to change as well. The commissioners should reflect our community, both in terms of board membership and the intentional inclusion of the diverse voices of our county. I'm a public middle school math teacher turned law professor turned educational consultant and legal instructor for the basic police academy, as well as a wife of 24 years and mother of five. I come from a family of farmers, teachers and small business owners. I will devote my time, energy and talents to the people of Marion County.


One of my favorite hobbies is hiking around Oregon, taking in the natural beauty of the state. My family knows not to travel with me without a pair of sneakers as I will inevitably pull them onto a hike somewhere. I also enjoy listening to my children's vocal music performances: My son sings in the University of Oregon chamber choir and my daughters sing in various venues and events around town. When I have the time, I also enjoy making a big pot of gumbo and sharing it with friends.

Marion County Commissioner Position 2

Colm Willis


Relevant Experience:

I am a citizen of Marion County. I'm a husband and father of four little girls and a practicing small business attorney. I worked full time while going to law school to support my family. My wife is a registered nurse so we know what it is like to have to juggle childcare and our jobs. Like many voters there have been times that I've had to stretch to pay the mortgage, the babysitter, hospital bills, and ever-increasing utility bills and taxes.

Why are you running?

I love Marion County and I want to preserve our culture and way of life as we grow. I want to advocate for working families in our community and work to ensure that a good education, a good job, a good home and a secure retirement are available to everyone.

What are the three biggest issues facing the county, specifically northern Marion County?

1. Alleviating homelessness and building affordable housing, promoting public safety and easing traffic congestion are the most pressing issues that we face in Marion County. I support the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Strategic Plan. I am excited about the relocation of the Union Gospel Mission shelter and its expansion. I am grateful for Sen. Winters' work to help develop a sobering facility in Salem.

2. I am encouraged by the engagement of private citizens and nonprofit organizations to develop more affordable housing in Marion County (in particular, Villa Esperanza in Woodburn). But we also need to work on making the construction of affordable housing more affordable for builders. The price of rents is related to the cost of building the housing. We have to lower the cost to build. We need to see if we can make more land available for housing and have a work force that can get the job done. We need to make sure that there are sufficient sheriff's deputies, especially in North Marion County to keep our residents safe. I am going to work to make sure our Sheriff's office has the resources it needs to keep us safe.

3. It is essential that we build a new bridge to West Salem. Salem City Council has stopped this project from moving forward and that is just wrong. People should be home with their families at the end of the day not sitting in traffic.

What three things would you like to accomplish if elected?

1. I oppose the Army Corps of Engineers' plan to drain Detroit Lake. Over 1,000 people in Marion County have joined me and have signed a letter to our representatives in Washington, D.C. asking them to stand up for us and protect our lake. If I am elected, I am committed to working for a better solution that will keep Detroit Lake full.

2. I am a strong advocate for a third bridge to West Salem. I hope to make progress on the construction of the third bridge.

3. I want to make progress in addressing the homeless crisis and expanding affordable housing options to help ease housing price increases.

Three reasons you are the best candidate for the job:

1. Professionally, I help many clients who have issues that involve the government. As a result, I have a knowledge and comfort level with tackling difficult public problems. The issues confronting the county are complicated.

2. Additionally, the county often enters into very large and complicated contracts that have a significant impact on the citizens of Marion County. My professional background drafting and negotiating complicated contracts will be an asset to voters when making these decisions.

3. I also serve on the board of Catholic Community Services Foundation, and as a result, have experience working with nonprofits and developers in public-private partnerships especially when it comes to affordable housing. I have been involved in the decision-making process on a number of affordable housing projects as a member of the foundation board, including Villa Esperanza in Woodburn and St. Joseph Shelter in Mount Angel.


I love Irish music and soccer.

Bill Burgess


Relevant Experience:

Elected Marion County Clerk (14 years);

Salem City Council (8 years) and Council President (1 year);

Pharmacy manager (14 years);

Master in Public Administration from Lewis & Clark College

Why are you running?

I'm running to keep our communities safe, healthy, vibrant and prepared for the future. I enjoy public service and leading government to provide great customer service. I will address improving roads and public transit, enhancing air and water quality, supporting businesses and family wage job development, and by working to increase affordable housing, reduce homelessness, provide better health care and drug addiction treatment. We need to be prepared for the future in light of climate change and disasters such as a Cascadia earthquake. We need to halt domestic violence.

What are the three biggest issues facing the county, specifically northern Marion County?

1. Affordable housing and homelessness.

2. Climate change, especially as it affects our health, drinking water, agriculture and forestry.

3. Family wage jobs and a vibrant, largely agriculture-based economy.

What three things would you like to accomplish if elected?

1. Reduce homelessness and the threat of homelessness while increasing affordable housing.

2. Increase family wage jobs and build a more vibrant, resilient economy, realizing that global warming will affect water, agriculture, forestry and health.

3. Halt domestic violence through a concerted campaign. This will reduce fear and stress on children and families allowing increased opportunity for future generations to thrive. Assuring ready access to health care, especially mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment, will also help.

Three reasons you are the best candidate for the job:

1. Experience as a proven, trusted leader, serving as your elected Marion County clerk.

2. Knowledge of county issues through working with the Association of Oregon Counties, serving on the county Council of Economic Advisors, and involvement in other county-related committees and endeavors as your elected county clerk.

3. My prior work as a Salem city councilor (eight years), as a neighborhood association leader collaboratively developing and implementing self-help projects to create and build a neighborhood park (Rees Park) and to install a walkway along a busy street, and earning a Master of Public Administration help prepare me to effectively serve you.


Most people do not know that I am a licensed pharmacist and was a pharmacy manager for over a dozen years, and have worked on health legislation to better serve patients. Many people do not know that I advocate for election improvements, such as vote by mail and automatic voter registration on the national level, including before the President's Commission on Election Administration. I enjoy listening to people describe their life experiences, learnings and observations. I enjoy exploring museums, new learnings and ideas; documentary films; driving the countryside; harvesting wheat; and hiking.

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