There are four candidates vying to become Benton County's next commissioner. The position is currently held by Linda Modrell, who is retiring after 15 years. Three Democrats and one Republican are seeking their party’s nomination for the May 20 primary. In November voters will decide who will work with current Commissioners Jay Dixon and Annabelle Jaramillo.
Benton and 26 other counties in Oregon hold partisan elections for this office. That’s something republican Jerry Jackson wishes would change. Jackson: “I think it’s important to have somebody that once they are elected that they turn the political machine off. I want to walk in to my office. It doesn’t matter who walks in my door, they’re a citizen. They are somebody I should talk to and take seriously what they’re saying. Not think, ok, they’re a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent. But I want to run my office as a non-partisan office.”
Jackson is a private investigator and owns a process serving business. He says his experience working with different government agencies and the Philomath City Council makes him qualified for the job. Jackson has run twice before, unsuccessfully, for commissioner in Benton County. No other Republicans filed to run in the primary.
Three candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination, including 21-year old Quintin Kreth. Kreth is a sheep farmer and recent graduate of the University of Oregon.
Kreth: “I’m the only candidate with a degree in public administration, or any degree in management.”
Kreth started taking classes at age 15 and feels his age and education work in his favor. He thinks higher property taxes could displace the elderly. He wants to manage Benton County’s budget without an increase.
Kreth: “The main way that I hope to do that is to use my experience in planning and public policy to work on increasing the density of home ownership in Adair Village, North Albany, Alsea, Monroe, and Philomath. These are the outlying towns in Benton County and we have really not done a good job of working between the county and those towns.”
All four candidates think Benton County’s dilapidated jail needs to be replaced. The current structure was built in 1976 and was designed as a stop-gap facility until the state built regional jails. That never happened, so the County has been stuck with the current one ever since, forcing the sheriff to rent space from surrounding agencies.
Pat Malone wants to see a new jail built even though the proposal has been voted down twice.
Malone: “There’s been some talk of people giving citizens tours of the facility so they can actually see what the situation really is rather than dealing with the vision in their heads of what we got to work with.”
Malone feels his experience as a tree farmer is his greatest strength. He compared the long term planning skills he uses on his farm to the kind of planning required by a county commissioner. Malone says he has more experience working with current legislators and politicians than his opponents.
Malone: “The reason that this is important is because much of the funding for Benton county comes from state and federal sources and having those kind of relationships on day one will be a real advantage.”
Malone is concerned the county’s expenses are rising faster than its revenue. He wants to fix this by sharing resources and increasing cooperation between departments.
The biggest issue for longtime Corvallis School District board member and commission candidate Anne Schuster is investing in social and mental health services.
Schuster: “People bounce from the ER to the jail and back and forth, and we just don’t have the bandwidth to deal with all these issues.”
Schuster has an extensive background in education and volunteer groups in Benton County. She agrees building a new jail should be a priority, but other structures need to be maintained as well.
Schuster: “It’s not just that we need a new jail, and I’d love to see some sort of facility for the folks who struggle with transition. There are so many times we hear, ‘We have no place to send these people,’ and you don’t want to send them to the jail but wouldn’t it be great to have some place where they could be.”
Schuster also thinks the county should support a program that encourages and trains youth to be farmers.
Ballots are due May 20th.
copyright, 2014 KLCC