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June 20, 2014
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Guest column: Robertson's retirement brings an end to an era

Any way your slice it, 33 years is a long time to hold down a job. Like all of us in elected public service, Doug Robertson is accountable to the voters. He has gone back to the voters of Douglas County eight times, and you have agreed to keep him on the payroll after each of those performance reviews.

It is increasingly rare in this political climate to see individuals with the depth and breadth of knowledge and commitment that Doug has brought to our county government. The knowledge base that he has developed since he became a county commissioner in 1981 is unparalleled.

Doug is clearly recognized as a leading expert on federal lands issues nationally. Without his work on the federal safety net funding and its many reauthorizations, Douglas County, and all of southwest Oregon, would be a far different place than it is today.

But Commissioner Robertson is not a one-issue politician. He has worked hard and long on the whole spectrum of services that the county oversees. Through good times and bad he has shaped the evolution of our road system, law enforcement, social services, technology, parks, and our landfill system, to name only a few. Doug came into office on the heels of the 1980 recession. The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates to curtail inflation, raising mortgage rates and crashing the housing industry. Having no markets, our timber industry came to a swift stop, and all of us were in deep trouble, including county government.

During the 1990s, Doug saw the federal lands withdrawn from the productive land base with the Endangered Species Act listing of the spotted owl. Then the Northwest Forest Plan failed.

The plan proved unworkable and the counties and schools were sustained on bridge funding known as the federal safety net. That program has now ended, but still endures on one-year appropriations at a dramatically reduced funding level.

Doug recognizes the crossroads that county government faces. It is simple and game-changing: we have drawn down our reserve funds to the caution level. The reserves have been used carefully and prudently to maintain public safety. Other programs have been cut to the bone to reduce their cost to the reserves. Further cuts will mean dismantling programs. Using fee and tax increases to make up the difference is unrealistic and impossible.

I hope that Doug’s incredible knowledge and skills will continue as part of the team that will shape the discussion our federal partners are having. I will sorely miss the counsel, mentoring and camaraderie of my partner in the commissioners’ office, and understand how very difficult this decision has been for him.

Your county team is tremendously capable, knowledgeable, creative and hardworking. As it has since 1852, Douglas County government will endure.

Susan Morgan is a Douglas County commissioner. She welcome your questions or comments by email at morgan@co.douglas.or.us; by mail at Douglas County Courthouse, Room 217, 1036 S.E. Douglas Ave., Roseburg, OR 97470; or by phone at 541-440-4201.

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The News-Review Updated Jun 20, 2014 09:06AM Published Jun 30, 2014 11:30AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.