Myrtle Creek resident Alyssa McConnel earned a name for herself as a government watchdog during the three-and-a-half years she lived in Douglas County.
In that short time, she ran a downtown merchants’ association, accused that organization of whistle-blower retaliation when it fired her, and ran for office twice — unsuccessfully.
Undaunted, McConnel became a regular fixture in the audience seats at local government meetings, and she started the Facebook site Douglas County Citizens’ Voices to Local Government. She used that platform to post information about meeting agendas and call for greater transparency.
She told The News-Review on Thursday she believes the community will only move forward if its citizens know what’s going on, and said she hoped others would carry on gathering information and pushing for transparency once she’s gone.
“No one person is going to change this place. It’s going to have to be a multitude, and the first step is paying attention,” she said.
McConnel made an unsuccessful run for Douglas County commissioner in 2018 and another unsuccessful run for the Douglas County Transportation Board in May. She garnered just 5.7% of the vote in the commissioner race, but came in second to incumbent transportation board member Mark Hendershott with 47% of the vote in May.
“Everybody should run for office at some point in their life,” McConnel said. “It’s very educational and eye opening, whether you win or not.”
Prior to running for office, she served as director of the merchants’ group Downtown Roseburg Association. The association’s board of directors fired McConnel from that job in April 2018, alleging a failure to maintain productive relationships with downtown businesses and derogatory comments about the city’s use of funds.
McConnel alleged her firing was retaliation for whistle-blowing. She had questioned the financial relationship between the city of Roseburg and the association. She filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries that was dismissed, and followed up in April by filing a lawsuit against the Downtown Roseburg Association. McConnel had no comment Thursday about her dispute with the Downtown Roseburg Association. Currently, she works part time as Valley Tire Center’s marketing manager.
The primary reason she’s leaving is she’s been unable to find a full-time job that pays well.
“I’ve noticed there are plenty of minimum wage jobs, but minimum wage jobs do not cover someone who has any sort of higher education that they have to pay back,” she said.
McConnel is from Iowa and attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. She said she was drawn to the West Coast because she literally wanted a change of scenery. She visited Idaho several times with relatives and felt she’d like to move to the West. Her first job here was as an advertising saleswoman for The News-Review, where she worked for a little over a year, until January 2017.
She said she’ll leave this summer, but wouldn’t say where she’s headed. Her long-term destination will depend on the results of her job search. Although she feels her work here wasn’t done, she said financial survival is forcing her to move.
McConnel’s parting comments hearkened back to her county commissioner campaign slogan.
“I wish everybody the best. Get stuff done,” she said.