The race for the position representing Springfield on the Lane County Board of Commissioners has attracted two challengers for incumbent Sid Leiken. Political newcomer Charmaine Rehg and Springfield City Councilor Sheri Moore are taking on the career politician.
Charmaine Rehg is a licensed practical nurse. The St. Louis native moved to Oregon less than 2½ year ago. She serves on the Willamette Jazz Society Board and is a member of the Washburne Homeowner’s Association. Rehg has never held elected office and explains why she’s running for the Lane County Board of Commissioners.
Rehg: “I have been an activist for decades. I’ve been involved in letter writing, boycotting, demonstrating and at some point I get tired of always being involved and never seeing things change and I’d kind of like to be on the other side of it.”
Rehg disagrees with decisions the board has made.
Rehg: “I think that was a dirty deal to let that Parvin Butte go through to have that blasted. Also, I think that was really sneaky about Lianne Richardson and how she was padding her paycheck with unearned sick time and vacation time.”
Rehg also does not support the O&C bills to increase timber harvests in the county. Rehg has spoken at public forums with the other candidates but is otherwise is running a low-key campaign.
Rehg: “As far as on the street, sort of pounding the pavement, I have to say I haven’t been out there a whole lot, I’m working. And I don’t have a lot of funds right now. I’ve actually only spent $10 and made little flyers that I’m giving out.”
Springfield City Councilor Sheri Moore says she’s not running against Sid Leiken.
Moore: “I’m running for the position because I want to give people, number one, a choice. And number two because I think I bring some different skills to the job of county commissioner. I appreciate what Sid has done for the city of Springfield and I just would hope that I would have an opportunity to bring my skills forward.”
As a former teacher in the Springfield, Eugene and Marcola districts, Moore says she’s skilled in conflict resolution. The grandmother says she’s not in it for the power or as a stepping stone to run for higher office.
Moore: “I bring an open, honest, authentic person to the county. And I also bring a female perspective, which I’m sorry to say; well I’m not sorry to say. It’s different. And I’m not there to gain points or rattle my sword or make enemies or even make friends, I’m there to serve the people of Lane County.”
Moore was appointed to fill a vacancy for Ward 3 on the Springfield City Council in November, 2010. She was then elected to a four-year term in 2012. On the Lane County Board of Commissioners, Moore says her first priority would be to bring people together and listen to their concerns. The next priority is public safety.
Moore: “So we might look at some different ways of contracting for police work with some of the municipalities that are placed around Lane County. We could set up some satellite kind of stations so that we could respond faster to emergencies throughout the county. It’s a huge county to cover with any kind of police protection. And we have one office and it’s located in Eugene and I don’t understand why we do that.”
Moore also says she’d like the Lane County Sheriff’s Office to get more use out of electronic ankle bracelet monitoring for suspects who are out on bail awaiting their day in court.
Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken took a while to decide whether to run for a second term, saying he wanted to consider all of his options. But in the end, the former Springfield mayor says he felt his work on the board wasn’t done. He’s glad voters approved a public safety levy to provide funding for more jail beds, but there’s more to do.
Leiken: “What are some ways that we can improve patrol? What are some things that we can increase the capacity for the DA’s office? Part of that levy included youth services. What are some of the ways we can actually increase the youth services capacity as well? Let’s talk about setting some priorities, and then take it out to the public because the public will tell us what they’re willing to support.”
Leiken also says there’s more that needs to be done to improve economic development and opportunity in the county, not just in Eugene and Springfield, but in Glenwood, Cottage Grove and Junction City.
Leiken’s first term on the board hasn’t been without scandal. The firing of County Administrator Lianne Richardson in 2013 was a huge distraction and made the public leery of what was really happening in their county government. Leiken was board chair at the time. Richardson told the investigator at least three of the commissioners knew she was converting sick and vacation leave into take home pay. Leiken is adamant that he had no prior knowledge of Richardson’s illegal activity.
Leiken: “She wasn’t being truthful to the board. I’m not sure where the wheels went off, but obviously they went off somewhere. I thought how we handled it overall, we were pretty swift and we were able terminate her with cause. There was not settlement, which kind of tells you what she was doing was wrong.”
Numerous lawsuits were filed against the county to force them to release the records related to the Richardson investigation. When they were released, they were heavily redacted. Leiken says this was done to protect the identity of the whistleblower.
Leiken: “You have no idea how we wanted to release the report, because frankly people can come up with all sorts of conspiracy conclusions if they want. But the investigator clearly stated that only one individual was untruthful and that was it. That was Ms. Richardson.”
Reflecting on his own performance as a board member, Leiken says there’s room for improvement.
Leiken: “I would probably maybe give myself a B-minus at this point in time. Only because you know I had some thoughts and plans of where we could be today, we’re not quite there. We have some outside forces that affect us, especially from an economic standpoint. But I do feel good about the plans we’re putting in place to move things forward.”
Lane Community College Political Science instructor Steve Candee says as the incumbent, Leiken has a pretty good chance at being re-elected.
Candee: “They did a nice puff piece in the Register-Guard about him. But you know, the thing about Sid is he’s very stable. I don’t think he’s done anything to cause a lot of grief or hasn’t raised a lot of ire, anger out there so I think he’s got a pretty good shot.”
Springfield voters will be choosing between political newcomer Charmaine Rehg, Springfield City Councilor Sheri Moore and career politician Sid Leiken. Ballots are due by 8pm May 20th.
Rachael McDonald contributed to this report.
You can hear the full interviews with all three candidates: