JaCo Farm Bureau hears candidates for commissioner

        Six of seven candidates for position 2 Jackson County Commissioner attended the Jackson County Farm Bureau meeting April 17 in Medford.  The candidates were invited by Farm Bureau president  Ron Bjork, who missed the meeting himself, due to illness.

The meeting was unique in that both republicans and democrats were in the same room and without argument.  Each was allowed five minutes to give the campaign speech, followed by a (sometimes) short questions period.

The republican side was represented Kay Harrison, Colleen Roberts, Doug Briedenthal and Joel Ockunzzi.  For the democratic nomination Mark Soderstrom and Jeff  Scroggin were present, John Beatty was absent.  Feeling that simple and straight forward answers were the best, the Independent asked: What are the three priorities on your list for the commissioner position?  How do you propose to accomplish those? What do you feel makes you uniquely qualified to be a commissioner?

Republican Kay Harrison led off with her work and elected history.  She has been involved in elected boards such as the Central Point City Council, RVSS RVTD and others for more than 13 years.  Her list in order of importance is land, water and the commission being proactive.  She favors harvesting on O & C lands, economic development and rejects bad science  that wrongfully lists fish for protections when it causes economic hardships on people in the county.  Harrison says that the Board of commissioners must be transparent and must be responsive to the needs of the citizens.  She is a long-time resident of the valley, emphasizes that she has worked extensively in the valley and has raised a family here.  Finally, she says her greatest quality is honesty.

Colleen Roberts is self employed and ahs been for the past 20 years.  She received an MBA in business Administration and owns and operates Sensational Sweets Bakery in Eagle Point.  Colleen lists her three top priorities as financial responsibility, Accountability and a government based on both the United States and Oregon constitutions.  She feels the commissioners receive too much compensation and that they do not stay in touch with constituents like they should. She is a student of the constitution and admits she is “not a politician.”  “we want to take out government back.”

She is opposed to “government as usual.”  She reminded the crowd that the only thing for tyranny to prevail is for good people to do nothing, using that last statement to sum up why she is running.

Republican Doug Briedenthal  used a different approach by asking several questions of the audience.  Among those was “what does the county commissioner do?”  Briedenthal is a fireman at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, a union member, landowner and fire chief.  He lists a) conservative financial stewardship, b) local control of land use and c) restoring access to our natural resources.  On the latter, he says we must open up forests for logging, not just for woods jobs, but also for school support.

Joel Ockunzzi is in the real estate business and prior to moving to the rogue Valley in was involved in building business relationships for more than 40 years.  He works with Oregon Opportunities and is a member of the Jackson County Planning Commission.  His list includes regional problem solving, Local land use regulations and encouraging business to locate in the Rogue Valley.  Ockunzzi feels he ahs the most experience in management and has a large amount of experience in land use planning.

Democratic candidate mark Soderstrom moved to the Rogue Valley at age 12, then left to live in the Portland area while working for a large insurance company.  She spent 20 years with the insurance agency, relocated to southern Oregon  and started his own agency here.  He is a graduate of SOU and is interested in health care for all people.  Soderstrom believes the county can operate and maintain a low-cost clinic providing basic care for all citizens of the Valley.  He lists among those not being properly treated, those Medicare recipients because 80 percent of the doctors will not accept Medicare patients.  His list included manufacturing job here that will tie energy efficiency with assembly plants that will assemble solar panels.  He believes this will reduce our dependency on foreign oil at the same time creating jobs.

Democrat Jeff Scroggin won the prize for the fastest talking, something he learned during his five years in the army.  Scroggin also spent two terms in the Oregon House, and says he loves the Rogue Valley.  He is for more transparency in Government and wants to protect irrigation waters from those who would shut off water to protect species of fish.  His list includes maintaining and improving the infrastructure, providing rural broadband for those without and enlarging the round table discussions within county government.  He also wants to promote Rogue Valley produce in local schools.

The last candidate, who was unfortunately not present during the meeting was interviewed on the phone the following day.  John Beatty is a county IT specialist, married with five children.  He has worked in private industry and says he knows the county inside and out.  He is opposed to a “one-party” rule like he says is currently in place in Jackson County.  Though a democrat, he says he would be opposed to having three democrats on the board also.  He wants to promote job growth  and wants to involve the  citizens in the workings of the government.  Beatty believes that the high tech industry can find a home here in the Rogue Valley, and wants to create an environment here to promote that industry. Beatty says he is not using this position to leap-frog to another, higher-paying job.

All the candidates are listed on the Jackson County website.  More information is available on their websites which are listed on the county website.

Jackson Farm Bureau will meet again on May 15 at the Black Bear Restaurant beginning at 6 p. m.  Are you prepared for disaster on your farm?  Several speakers will address the issues during the meeting.

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