Douglas County commissioner candidates agreed the county needs more jobs, particularly in the timber industry, but offered few specifics Monday at their first joint campaign appearance.
Four of the six men running for a seat that Joe Laurance will vacate at the end of the year spoke at a Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Two candidates, Dale Rogers and Monte Muirhead, said they were unable to attend.
State Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, retired restaurateur Mark Vincent, construction manager Mick Fummerton and retired Oregon State Trooper Monte Smith participated.
The candidates took turns answering questions posed by a moderator. Many of the questions from chamber members were about the economy.
Vincent suggested taxing out-of-state property owners for leaving their buildings vacant.
“Punishing business owners is not a good idea,” Freeman said. He suggested county officials communicate with owners of vacant buildings to find out what they need to get them filled.
Freeman touted his experience as both a former Roseburg city councilor and current state representative. He said that as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee he worked on a two-year state budget of $60 billion.
“You all have paid for an education that I have (received) working in Salem, that I very much want to apply here in Douglas County,” he said.
Fummerton and Vincent said they handled large budgets as business owners.
Smith, who operates a hot dog stand at Kruse Farms in Garden Valley, said he has never “written a check for a million dollars,” but said he is personally fiscally responsible and would be as a commissioner.
Vincent argued for increased education, but did not explain how county government might be involved in that.
“Our number one export is our children, and we need to find a way to keep them here,” he said.
Smith said the county needs to focus on existing businesses.
“Even the hired guns who seem to be knowledgeable and trained in bringing new businesses to the community haven’t been able to do that,” Smith said. “I think we have some incredibly big resources in our community right now that have been here for generations, and we need to help them grow.”
Fummerton said he wants to “motivate people to invest in their community.”
“Why spend it someplace else? Let’s spend it here,” he said.
Freeman said that the government doesn’t and shouldn’t create jobs.
“Oftentimes people look at the government and say you need to go and create jobs. That’s the wrong way to go. The only way the government ever hires anybody is with your tax dollars. So I think what the county government can do is make darn sure that they’re creating an environment that welcomes business to Douglas County,” Freeman said.
All four said they want to create more timber jobs, but gave different answers when asked how they would accomplish that.
Fummerton said many people are working on the issue and he will “pile in there with them. That’s all I can do.”
Smith said he finds it disturbing that people at opposite ends of the spectrum on timber harvests can’t find a middle ground.
He said part of his “vision as a representative of Douglas County is to cultivate those open and honest communications in a straightforward fashion” and to build trust so everyone can be involved in making decisions.
Freeman said he has talked to Oregon’s congressional delegation and the governor about a timber management plan and credited Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson for working “tirelessly on this issue.”
“I would like to be another voice with Commissioner Robertson, making sure they know the dire problems that will happen if we don’t get in the woods,” he said.
Rogers, a Roseburg Municipal Court bailiff, said he did not attend the forum because he had to work. He said the forum should have been held at a time when working people could join the debate.
“I can’t afford to take time off work to be there,” he said.
Muirhead said he was absent because he had a doctor’s appointment that he was unable to reschedule.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.