State Rep. Tim Freeman wants to join the Douglas County Board of Commissioners when Joe Laurance retires at the end of the year, but he doesn’t want to be on the November ballot.
“We started our campaign over a year ago with the intent to win our campaign in May,” Freeman said.
Freeman has pursued the office with zeal. He raised $42,000 in 2013 and $54,000 so far this year for his campaign. He said he hopes to have knocked on 6,000 doors by this weekend and appears to have peppered the county with more signs than any other candidate.
But Freeman has a lot of competition for the job. Six other candidates have tossed their hats in the ring.
Freeman will have to win more than 50 percent of the vote, more than all his competitors combined, to win the race outright next month. If no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters will runoff in the fall general election.
Candidate Monte Muirhead said he thinks a second man will garner enough votes to make it into the November general election and once there will be more competitive.
“Whoever comes in second in the primary, they’re going to get a lot of people falling in behind them from the other candidates,” Muirhead said.
The defining question for the May 20 primary election may be: Who in second is most likely to succeed?
In addition to Freeman and Muirhead, the candidates are Winchester construction manager Mick Fummerton, Roseburg Municipal Court bailiff Dale Rogers, retired restaurateur Mark Vincent, county public works employee Glen Nielsen and retired state trooper Monte Smith.
Rogers said he believes it’s his lack of political experience that sets him apart.
“I chose to run for commissioner because we don’t need another career politician deciding the future of Douglas County,” Rogers said.
He said he wants to serve taxpayers rather than special interests.
“I paid for my own campaign, most of it. I don’t take any money from special-interest groups,” he said.
Rogers said he would start a “vigorous countywide campaign” to create long-term and seasonal tourism jobs.
“I will travel through Douglas County, nights and weekends, at my own expense to listen to all Douglas County residents. Every area of the county has different economic problems and complaints so what might work in Roseburg might not work in Reedsport,” Rogers said. He said career politicians “tend to lose sight of the working class.”
Rogers also wants to look for solutions to homeless problems, which he said are costing taxpayers thousands of dollars every year.
Nielsen has spent eight years working for the solid waste division of Douglas County Public Works and formerly worked as a forester for the Bureau of Land Management. He also owned an insurance agency. Nielsen said it’s that varied background which sets him apart.
He said he hopes to encourage job growth by reducing red tape.
“We must demonstrate that Douglas County is open for business investment,” he said.
Nielsen said his forestry background would be useful in discussions about timber harvests on Oregon and California Railroad trust lands.
He said he would draw on his public works experience dealing with two other issues he calls priorities. He wants to save costs by increasing the department’s efficiency. He also said the county landfill is filling up and commissioners will soon be forced to find a solution.
He said his experience as a site supervisor at county transfer stations has brought him in contact with a wide variety of county residents.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t go to the dump at some time or another,” he said.
Fummerton said he considers himself a moderate and said others in the race are not.
“I consider myself the true nonpartisan in the race. I don’t hang my hat out with the Republicans, like Tim Freeman, or with the Democrats, like Mark Vincent,” he said.
He has worked with county government as a construction manager and also has relatives who serve in it. Sheriff John Hanlin is his cousin and his wife is a nurse at the Douglas County Health Department.
Fummerton’s priorities are creating a positive working environment in county departments, planning for enhanced production of forest products and budgeting.
On his political blog, Fummerton describes himself as “Salt! A common man for the people.”
He describes growing up in a rural community and getting his first job at a slaughterhouse.
“I’m nothing more or nothing less than the salt of the earth,” he wrote.
Like Fummerton, Smith considers himself a moderate and said he dislikes the attention people give to his party affiliation. Smith is a Republican, but said he grew up in a blue-collar, Democratic family at a time when class was more closely aligned with party politics.
He said he is not seeking the office for the money.
Smith said he has signed a petition to qualify for the ballot a measure that would limit Douglas County commissioners to two four-year terms.
“I’m not looking for a new career. I’m seeking an opportunity to be a servant-leader to everyone that calls Douglas County their home,” Smith said.
He said he earned a positive reputation in the community during his 26 years as an Oregon State Police trooper.
“I’m respected in the community for not only serving as a state police officer, but for how I provided that service. I knew my authority well and used it wisely,” Smith said.
He said stable funding for public safety services is “a major priority.”
Vincent says he has done a little bit of every kind of work Douglas County has to offer, from millwork to ranching to running a small business. He is a retired restaurateur who formerly operated the Mark V restaurant in downtown Roseburg.
Vincent, a Democrat, said he does not emphasize party in his campaign for the nonpartisan commissioner office.
“I don’t think that sets me apart. What sets me apart is my resume, not of going to the Legislature and being a partisan, but of the number of opportunities Douglas County has offered me,” Vincent said.
Vincent said he wants to restore Douglas County residents to the good jobs and happy lives he observed when he moved to Roseburg 40 years ago. Now, he said, 6,000 people fall below the poverty line and restoring timber harvests is a necessary but only partial solution.
“What we’ve done for as many years as I can remember is the same old, same old. I think we’ve continued to try and solve the problems using the same answer over and over. Timber is our bread and butter, there’s no doubt about that, but it is not the giant that it once was,” he said. “We have to diversify.”
Muirhead is a former news director and lead anchor at KCBY-TV in Coos Bay. He was also an anchor and a reporter for KPIC-TV in Roseburg and a Roseburg-based reporter for Medford’s KOBI. He is now a high school teacher, who recently earned a master’s degree in education.
“Twenty years experience attending county commissioner meetings and researching political issues have given me experience from the outside as to how government functions,” Muirhead said.
Muirhead said residents should become more involved and “run for office whenever possible.” He said he favors government transparency and would restore televised commission meetings.
His said his priorities include making it easier for businesses to create jobs and increasing timber harvests.
“Timber alone won’t restore Douglas County’s economic base, but every effort must be made to ensure Douglas County has an annual sustainable harvest for years to come. Some jobs in the woods are better than no jobs.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.