Six vie for one Yamhill County Board of Commissioners seat
By George Robertson
Correspondent, The Sun
Six candidates are running for Yamhill County Commissioner Leslie Lewis’s seat in the May 15 primary election.
Lewis, a Newberg resident who is completing her third four-year term, is required under term limit law to step down at the end of the year.
The wide-open commissioner’s race includes three candidates from Newberg, two from McMinnville and one from Dayton.
Unless one candidates wins a majority of votes — an unlikely event given the number of contenders — the top two will battle it out in the November general election.
This election marks the beginning of a total change in the three-member board since both of the other commissioners — Kathy George and Mary Stern — are finishing their third terms and must step down in two years.
The county commissioner positions are considered non-partisan.
Here is a report on each of the candidates, in alphabetical order, based on their answers to a written questionnaire:
Years lived in Yamhill County: 16.
Current job: Loan officer, Westcorp Mortgage Group.
Past job: Real estate loan officer.
Community activities: Past member and chair of Dayton School District budget committee, volunteer 15 years with Boy Scouts, organized 10th anniversary Yamhill County commemoration of 9/11, past member Dayton Key Communicators, church volunteer 30 years, member Willamette Valley Medical Center board of trustees.
Greatest success? The strong bonds I have forged with my wife and four children.
Greatest failure? I probably consider my greatest setback was the delay to complete my education...I have returned to complete my degree at George Fox University and expect to graduate with a 4.0 GPA in December.
Why running for this office? As a Cuban refugee to the United States I have received a hand up. This country has opened its doors to me and provided unparalleled opportunities. Now it’s time to do more for this country that I love.
Why are you qualified to run for this office? First, I possess the qualities of character that are crucial for a public servant: trustworthy, optimistic, dependable, effective communicator and decisive. Second, 26 years of real estate business experience. Third, organizational leadership skills at all levels.
What changes would you make to make this office run more efficiently? I will have a better judgment once I am in office. Only then can I begin to evaluate the procedures, time commitments and interaction with the departments. I am confident that ideas will surface in ways to improve.
What goals do you have for this office? First, build the Newberg-Dundee bypass. Second, increase jobs through economic development. Third, maintain strong public safety for our communities.
How would you attract new businesses? There are some great ideas already spearheaded by the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership. I would like to see that effort expanded across the entire county and the communities work in unison.
What’s your position on Riverbend Landfill? The application for expansion has been discontinued. When it does come up again I will carefully evaluate the arguments from both sides. I realize the friction that surrounds the issue. However, Riverbend adheres to strict state and federal regulations and provides significant financial benefits to Yamhill County, our residents and businesses as well as the production of low-cost green power.
What’s your position on the Newberg-Dundee bypass? This is the best opportunity we’ve had to build the bypass in the last 20 years. I believe that improved transportation through that section of the county is crucial for job growth and to provide greater ease for existing businesses to transport their goods...I support the construction of the Newberg-Dundee bypass.
How would you help farmers and wineries? The best thing I could do as a commissioner is listen. I will listen to the farmers and wineries to determine how to best assist them.
Do you favor imposing a county tax on hotels and B&Bs? I do not support any new tax increase.
Do you favor a county road bond? We must make do with what we have, find ways to maintain our roads and be careful borrowing from future incomes to take care of present needs.
Where would you trim the county budget if revenues drop? Each department in the county has a director. The recommended cuts must come from the bottom up. I would depend on those individuals to make recommendations where they see cuts can be made in their departments.
Years lived in Yamhill County: 14
Current job: Exchange student coordinator for NW Peace Services.
Past job: Travel Center of America, 5 years.
Community activities: Board of Habitat for Humanity, Yamhill Watershed stewardship fund, Newberg School District bond review, Chamber of Commerce.
What’s your greatest success? My next one.
Greatest failure: I don’t fail — sometimes I just have to try more than once.
Why running for this office? Because I believe that I am the best person for the job. I have knowledge and connections in every part of the county, not just the city I live and work in.
Why are you qualified? I work well with both Kathy and Mary and my time as a Newberg city councilor has given me some experience that I will need to be successful as a county commissioner.
What changes would you make? I have met with all department heads and I feel confident they are managing the taxpayers money in a responsible and respectful manner...I understand that they will be asked to do more with less for the forseeable future.
What goals to you have for this office? I would like to take another look at the five member board of commissioners. I would also like to see the board’s meeting informationn put on the website so everyone can see what the board is using to make decisions.
How would you attract new jobs? We must focus 80 percent of our efforts into keeping the business that we aready have and 20 percent bringing in new business. I would like to see the county focus economic development money on the cities — where industrial and commercial lands are located.
What’s your position on the Newberg-Dundee bypass? I am in support of the bypass and current proposal to fund the remaining $16 million.
What’s your position on Grand Island and Riverbend Landfill? Both could return to the commission as land use decisions so it would be unwise of me to answer this question.
How would you help farmers and wineries? The county is heading in the right direction with a committee just appointed to look into a fair and balanced way for farmers to find added value in their products. I am disappointed there are no other types of farmers on the committee except grape growers.
Do you favor a county tax on hotels and B&Bs? It is only fair that tourists pay a share in public safety, road maintenance and money back into the tourist industry.
Do you favor a road bond? It’s a good idea. If they want new roads then they should have the opportunity to voice that.
How would you trim the county budget in light of reduced revenue from timber taxes and other revenue? We will have to determine the level of service that people are willing to pay for and go from there. The people that will be paying the bill should have the final say.
Years lived in Yamhill County: Almost 64
Current job: Maintenance consultant.
Past job: Apartment management.
Community activities: 10-year member of Yamhill County Park Board, 7-year chairman of Newberg’s Memorial Day boat races, chairman of Roger’s Landing Advisory Board. Received Presidential Award from Newberg Chamber of Commerce for promoting the city. Served on Newberg city council for 16 years and was chairman of the city’s capitol projects committee. Member of Yamhill County Water Task Force and Newberg VFW building committee.
Greatest success? Being the person that my parents showed what is right and wrong and how to do what you say and believe in.
Greatest failure? Loss of an election that I believed in for Newberg.
Why running? I felt it was time for me to get more involved in a larger scale with Riverbend Landfill and Grand Island getting my attention.
Why are you qualified? My background sets me out as one with the most time in government participation.
What changes would you make? I do not see that I can make any changes since it is all a team effort to accomplish anything in this office.
What goals do you have for this office? To learn as much as possible and be a productive part of the discussions to create answers and decisions. It’s too bad we only have three and not five commissioners.
How would you attract new businesses? The goals are hard to fill when looking for clean, non-polluting, low water consumption companies that do not need a lot more infrastructure.
What is your position on the Newberg-Dundee bypass? I still support a cheaper version with less impact to land and environment like the regional (route) from I-5 to Dayton that benefits more than Newberg-Dundee.
What’s your position on Riverbend Landfill and Grand Island plans? I am not for expansion of Riverbend. It should have been for Yamhill County. Grand Island may work but we need more information and reimbursements before we look at destroying prime land.
How would you help county farmers and wineries? They would have to help with these questions with input from the soil and water conservation district.
Do you support a county tax on hotels and B&Bs? I would need more information to make such a decision even though most cities use it.
Do you support a road bond? This one really needs a lot of citizen input despite the fact that our roads are a mess. But most are state roads and not our problem. We should have been getting more from Riverbend for roads with all the oversized trucks...
Where would you trim the county budget? Address the wants and needs of the citizens and then look at possible cutbacks before eliminating any services. Ask employees for ways to save and give useable ideas 5 percent of total savings for one year up to $5,000.
Years in Yamhill County: 10
Current job: Attorney.
Past job: Yamhill County and Deschutes County deputy district attorney.
Community activities: Member of McMinnville City Club, Soroptimist, Elks and Lions and Toastmasters clubs. Graduate of McMinnville leadership program and citizens police academy. Organized classes for Yamhill County Bar Association about juvenile law and member of family drug court team. Also volunteer judge for juvenile peer court and member of Juvenile Delinquency Committee.
Greatest success? The thousands of hours of vounteer community service...law related services to the disenfranchised, service clubs, Commission on Children and Families.
Greatest failure? There are no failures, just learning opportunities.
Why running? I possess the education, experience and commitment to be an outstanding county commissioner. I am an independent thinker and as a trained and experienced mediator I am an experienced problem solver. I am well suited to work as a team player...I am a good listener and do my homework...I am dedicated to service to my community and that fact is borne out of all my actions.
What goals do you have? We need to assist local business in streamlining government red tape...We need to think outside the box when we plan for increased budget shortfalls...Our county departments need to work more collaboratively, apply for more grants, promote and utilize more citizen volunteers...A count of homeless children in 2010-11 revealed 444 in Yamhill County. These numbers are unacceptable.
Do you support the bypass? Yes, I do. I am committed to moving the bypass from Phase 1 to Phase 2. The truck route is a vital economic artery...This project is expected to generate 3,500 direct construction jobs and up to 5,200 post-construction jobs. The majority of the $192 million will come from the state. Yamhill County must come up with only $20 million in matching funds. With $4 million pledged by the Grand Ronde tribe that leaves $16 million...it makes good sense to borrow that at the nearly record low interest rates rather than go out for a bond or property tax increase.
Do you support Riverbend Landfill expansion? LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals) is set to issue an opinion in April (regarding Yamhill County’s claim that it has followed state laws in approving an expansion.) ... The landfill will be full/closed in 2014 so Yamhill County is going to have to make some tough choices about what to do with our garbage ... As your county commissioner, I would insure that all concerned parties have a voice ... that the information is complete and openly shared (and) that we are good stewards of our county’s environment.
Do you support a county road bond? No response.
Do you support a county tax on hotels and B&Bs? No response.
How would you support farmers and wineries? No response.
How would you trim the county budget if revenues decline? I have vast experience managing budgets as an owner of two small businesses and managing a wide variety of community based budgets in my work as a community volunteer...Large or small, the principles are the same — income vs. spending must equal balance. Live within our means, work collaboratively and think outside the box.
Years lived in Yamhill County: 15.
Current job: Design consultant, La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries.
Past job: Design consultant, Bassett Home Furnishings.
Community activities: Newberg Animal Shelter committee, advisory board Faith in Action-Providence Health Center, Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce, Elder in Newberg Friends Church. Currently serve on Newberg city council.
Why running? To strengthen the county and create communities of people that live and work and play...to build a consensus between commissioners and county leaders. I’m seeking a harmony between farms and neighborhoods, business and manufacturers.
Why are you qualified? My life in the ministry and business has uniquely prepared me for this...Serving people is second nature to me and my ability to relate to others is a great asset...Leadership and teamwork are the cornerstones of my working relationships...
What changes would you make? Build on past and current successes and strive for open communications to lead through these difficult economic circumstances.
What goals do you have? I will ensure responsible budgets...to protect taxpayers, county resources and county departments. I will seek a useful population study that creates a basis for new economic development. Find and create jobs for every Yamhill County citizen.
How would you help attract new jobs and help existing businesses? I will work to protect us from special interest groups that hinder our towns and cities...I will partner with chambers of commerce, state and local officials as we employ new energy to job creation.
Do you support the Newberg-Dundee bypass? The success of the bypass is fundamental to the interests of the county. I will support the inter-governmental agreements now under discussion (to help finance the project). The bypass is one of the few instances where local government can create jobs now and into the forseeable future.
Do you support expanding the Riverbend Landfill and develping Grand Island? Riverbend is an integral part of Yamhill County ... How we choose to shape and preserve this mutually advantageous partnership will speak volumes about us ... (No response to Grand Island plans.)
How would you help county farmers and wineries? These county industries are to be encouraged and aided wherever possible ... The county and its departments are partners with farmers and wineries. Commissioners are leaders in protecting these growing enterprises.
Do you favor a county tax on hotels and B&Bs? The county might find fees appropriate when looking at taxing county enterprises outside cities in the interest of promoting tourism.
Do you favor a county road bond? Until we recover from this present economic dilemma it would be unadvisable to lay any further burden on county taxpayers.
Where would you trim the county budget if revenues drop? I recently participated in the budget sessions of Yamhill County. I know the pain and sorrows of urgent and necessary cuts ... I have made these tough decisions before...I will listen, deliberate and make the best choice for the sake of us all ...
Years in Yamhill County: Lifelong.
Current job: Owner of construction company.
Past job: No response.
Community activities: Chapel volunteer at federal prison in Sheridan since 2001, member of NW Community Church leadership team, the McMinnville city council, the Oregon Economic Development Committee and Builder’s Advisory Board.
Greatest success? No response.
Greatest failure? No response.
Why running for this office? I believe I have the vision to aggressively move us into the future and a passion to carry out the assigment. Being a lifelong resident of this county and having served as both a producer in the private sector and as an elected official in the public sector.
Why are you qualified? I understand that the role of government is to help the private sector in the creation of economic development, not hinder it by excessive regulations.
Springer declined to answer all of the other questions.