All three Douglas County commissioners have filed for reelection in 2022, and one of them has a challenger.
Commissioner Tom Kress will square off against Marcus Black, a logger from Drain.
Black grew up in Douglas County and works in his family’s logging business. At 25 years old, he is a newcomer to politics and said not enough people of his generation are involved in politics.
He thinks it’s time for new people with new ideas to serve on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
“They are not pushing that envelope to do something great,” he said of the current commissioners. “They are content to just do enough to stay relevant, stay elected. They are too afraid to rock the boat to make everybody’s lives potentially better.”
Black cited education, homelessness and forest fires as his top priorities.
He wants the county to give parents options outside of the state-funded education system.
“A lot of parents are unhappy with the school district due to the policies that are coming into play with critical race theory, transgenderism,” he said.
He mentioned offering tax breaks for parents to send kids elsewhere, and also said he would like to fund a county-funded school district as an alternative.
The county is not currently involved in funding or operating any school districts.
To pay for his project, he suggested the county should partner with an environmental group to buy the Elliott State Forest from the state. The forest could then be managed to generate revenue for the county, he said.
The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, along with Lone Rock Timber, had unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the forest in 2017. The county later proposed buying the forest for $120.8 million. Oregon chose instead to make it a state research forest.
Black said the growing number of homeless people in Roseburg need to be given some tough love because many are drug addicts. He also said the county should give local churches and local businesses the money to help them.
“It’s not going away, it’s getting worse. So let’s try something new,” he said.
A third top issue for Black is forest fires. The county shouldn’t be seeing two or three big fires every summer, he said.
He wants the excess fuels out of the forest and said the county should create a cogeneration plant to burn material cleared out of the forest during fire prevention.
“We can make power with that fuel,” he said.
That would also bring the county energy independence, he said, if in the future there are power brownouts elsewhere due to a movement toward green energy.
Black also wants the county to have control over the federal O&C timberlands, which are operated by the Bureau of Land Management.
He said the BLM is required to harvest 500 million board feet of timber off those lands annually and is harvesting less than half that.
“We’re not getting as much of that money as we possibly could,” he said.
Commissioners Chris Boice and Tim Freeman are so far unopposed. All three incumbents have formed campaign committees and are actively fundraising. Black has not formed a fundraising committee yet and said he is not collecting campaign contributions.
Kress and Boice have each raised $19,000 in campaign funds so far this year. Freeman has raised $29,000.
This is the first time that three incumbents have ever run for the Douglas County Board of Commissioners at the same time.
Prior to 2015, all three of the commissioner seats were staggered, with Positions 1 and 3 coming up for election two years apart from Position 2. Freeman holds Position 2.
After longtime Commissioner Doug Robertson retired from Position 3 before his term was up, Boice was elected in 2014 to a four-year term, making his position line up with Freeman's. That left the staggering seat Position 1, then held by former commissioner Susan Morgan.
Morgan was replaced by Gary Leif in 2016, but he left Position 1 before his term was up. Once Kress was elected to fill that seat, all three commissioners were on the same cycle, with no more staggering position.
Freeman said this is the first time in the state's history, anywhere in the state, when all the county commissioner seats were on the ballot at the same time.
He said the Association of Oregon Counties has proposed legislation to ensure this won't happen again in other counties.
The candidate filing period for the 2022 countywide races opened in September and continues through March 8.
Douglas County Assessor Heather Coffel has also filed for reelection to her post.
In the state Legislative races, and in the races for seats in the U.S. House, the start of the filing period has been delayed until Jan. 17 due to redistricting.