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Eighteen year old running for mayor of Yoncalla


Ben Simons has been interested in running for Yoncalla mayor longer than he’s been able to vote.

At 18, he’s the youngest of three candidates for the seat.

Simons graduated valedictorian from Yoncalla High School in June. He is a student at Umpqua Community College, where he’s studying for an associate’s degree and hopes to transfer to the University of Oregon in two years to study business administration. If he’s elected, his two-year term would be up by then.

“I’d been looking at this election actually for about a year now,” he said of the mayoral race. “I’ve been friends with the current mayor, Jerry Cross, since I was a little kid, because he used to be a teacher at my school.”

He said it was Cross who suggested he might be interested in the position. Cross isn’t running for re-election. He told The News-Review this week that after 10 years as mayor he’s ready to retire.

“I’m not a career politician,” he said.

Despite his young age, Simons already has the advantage over the two other mayoral candidates when it comes to government experience. Earlier this month, Simons was appointed to a seat on the Yoncalla City Council.

Simons said he likes to claim that everyone in Yoncalla knows him. While he said that might not be technically true, he is pretty well-known in town. He’s been a member of focus groups discussing Yoncalla High School’s fate, and is a regular at the local school board meetings. Simons also volunteers with the North Douglas County Fire and EMS.

As a mayor, he said he’d want to focus on improving city streets and the water and sewer plant.

“A lot of the infrastructure in Yoncalla has really been neglected and is getting outdated and in dire straits actually,” he said. “What Yoncalla really needs at this point is to have some good fiscal management and at the same time look at getting the infrastructure brought into the 21st century.”

A father and daughter will also be on the ballot in Yoncalla this November. Micki Vroman is running for mayor, and her father Gene Vroman is running unopposed for city councilor.

Gene Vroman retired as Yoncalla public works supervisor in July. He said his experience will be valuable, and if his daughter is elected mayor they’ll work well together. He said she’d be good in the job because she “listens to both sides of the story” before making decisions.

Micki Vroman, a certified medical assistant, said it would be very interesting to serve with her dad.

“His opinions and my opinions, we’re not always on the same page,” she said. Even so, she said they can usually come to an agreement.

She has been active locally in the Lion’s Club and other organizations in the past and is eager to get involved in the community again.

“I just feel that our town needs some new blood in there to get some more community involvement and more things for the children and the kids in the community too,” she said.

Amanda Stroud, the third mayoral candidate, has helped revive the Yoncalla Summer Festival. She is a teacher’s assistant and has taught preschool and helped organize her church’s Vacation Bible School classes, as well as a local youth sports program.

She said she really wants to give Yoncalla kids the best town they can have. And she also wants to encourage as many people as possible, including youth, to become involved in bettering the community.

“I just think the town needs some new ideas, some fresh faces,” she said.

Stroud said she doesn’t expect any mudslinging in the Yoncalla mayoral race. None of the candidates are strangers to each other. Vroman was a year ahead of her in school, she said, and Simons is a good kid from a good family.

For one member of the Simons family, the election will present a unique dilemma. Following a divorce about five years ago, Ben Simons’s dad, Todd Simons, moved to a house outside the Yoncalla city limits. If he lived one house over, he’d be in the city, but at his current address, he’s not eligible to vote for his son.

“I might have to move,” he said.

News Editor Mike Henneke contributed to this story.

Delfino Vinyard's Celtic Music Festival returns

Nine years ago, four musicians gathered at Delfino Vineyards for the first Celtic Music Festival. Saturday, artists from Oregon, California, the British Isles, and Canada will gather in Roseburg for the eighth time for this family-friendly event

This year, nine-member band Rovers and Dragons, San Francisco keyboardist Josie Mendelson, Ashland-based Black Sheep and international instrumentalists Kevin Carr and Morgan O’Shaunnessey will be among those performing at the event.

Last year, Jim and Terri Delfino had to cancel the annual festival because of an illness.

According to musician and festival organizing assistant Jonathan Clark, “Terri made a miraculous and very brave recovery and, undaunted, set about planning a series of music events for the Roseburg community over this summer, including an specially revitalized Celtic Music Festival.”

Clark was among the original festival players and will be joining Rovers and Dragons’ performance. The group will be one of 15 acts at the festival. Local artisan vendors will also be on hand.

Social hour begins at 5 p.m., and performances will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and include wine tasting, music and door prizes. Attendees under 21 are free. Fesitval organizers said there is plenty of parking and it is RV friendly. Seating is first-come, first-served. Smokey G’s BBQ will be selling food. Beer and wine will also be available for purchase. Delfino Vineyards is located at 3829 Colonial Road in Roseburg.

VWestbrook / Photo Courtesy of Terri Delfino  

Musicians from local, state and international origins have played at the CelticFest held at Delfino Vineyards in Roseburg for the past seven years. The music returns Saturday.

Roseburg man flees from police, collides head-on with deputy's car

A Roseburg man was arrested Wednesday after attempting to flee from deputies, making a false 911 call and colliding head-on with a patrol vehicle in Oakland, according to police.

Nathan Richard Leitz was driving a white Volkswagon Jetta, with the front right headlight and back left taillight both out, on Interstate 5 near Curtin around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The 38-year-old got off at the Curtin exit and then “suspiciously got back on I-5 and proceeded southbound,” according to court documents.

Deputies attempted to pull him over and Leitz drove for two miles with the car’s right blinker on and then stopped at milepost 160. As the deputies exited their vehicle, dispatch received a report of a shooting in the area.

Deputy Tyler Fugate yelled at Leitz to turn off the car, but instead, Leitz drove away, according to court documents.

Deputies chased Leitz along the highway as he was weaving in and out of traffic at more than 100 mph, according to court document.

Leitz took the exit for Oakland and headed toward the high school, driving toward the back of the school, which leads to a dead end.

As Fugate turned the corner, Leitz had turned his car around and drove toward Fugate with his headlights off, according to court documents.

Leitz hit Fugate’s patrol car head-on which caused Leitz’s airbags to deploy.

Two occupants — Leitz and another man, later identified as 30-year-old Michael Baker-Guererro — fled from the crash. After a short foot pursuit, Leitz gave up. Deputies chose not to chase Baker-Guererro, who was already 150 feet away and heading northbound. A K9 unit was unsuccessful in tracking Baker-Guererro.

The other passenger, 36-year-old Raven Marcotti, was arrested outside of the car.

When deputies asked for the name of the male passenger, Leitz initially lied and told police his name was Aaron Baker. He later told police he lied because it was his instinct as a felon.

While investigating the reported shooting in the area, deputies noticed that the 911 call came from Baker-Guererro’s phone and was an attempt to divert law enforcement. Shortly after that call, another call came in about a stabbing that was traced to Leitz’s phone, according to court documents.

After searching Leitz’s car, deputies found methamphetamine and a heroin-filled syringe.

When asked about the drugs, Leitz told deputies that he uses heroin every day, twice a day and last used the drug that morning, according to court documents.

Marcotti was taken to CHI Mercy Medical Center. She told deputies that she begged Leitz to stop the car and that she was scared when he was driving fast. She said both Leitz and Baker-Guererro made the 911 calls to get deputies to stop pursuing them.

Leitz was charged with two counts of second-degree attempted assault, two counts of attempting to a elude a police officer, fourth-degree assault, improper use of an emergency reporting system, initiating a false report, being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, reckless driving and three counts of recklessly endangering another person. He is being held in the Douglas County Jail.

His bail is set at $100,000 for the attempting to elude charge.