The two members of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners heard presentations Monday from a group of people who’d like to join them as their third member — at least for a couple of months.
The applicants were asked to discuss their experience and to say what they thought the county was doing well, and what it could do better. Six of seven applicants stood at the mic Monday and rattled off their qualifications, mostly earned in the military or in business. Many were complimentary of the work the commissioners have done to try to turn around the county’s budget. One criticized the commissioners, saying they focus more on the needs of campaign contributors than on what the public wants.
The winner will be chosen by the current commissioners, likely on Sept. 19, and will serve until the end of the year. In January, the winner of the November commissioner election will take over.
The seat is open because former commissioner Gary Leif resigned to take on the role of interim representative to state House District 2.
First up Monday was Dan Loomis, who detailed a long list of accomplishments from his years in the U.S. Army. Among them, he served in combat in Iraq as a senior aviation logistician. He had earlier been a senior safety program manager for a military unit with more than 9,200 personnel. Before that, he oversaw 103 maintenance personnel working in five separate locations.
Loomis is the president of the Student Veterans of America chapter at Umpqua Community College and was appointed by the commissioners to the Douglas County Veterans Advisory Council.
He recommended the commissioners make more strategic and surgical budget cuts, but he praised the commissioners for their efforts to educate the public about the budget.
“I think this has paid dividends in gaining more of the citizens’ trust and helping the public to perceive the proper levels of transparency,” he said. He also said the commissioners have been “stalwart advocates” for the county to gain more control over its national resources.
Loomis is also running on the November ballot but said rather than asking for votes or financial contributions, he’s been asking local governments, businesses and individuals what their needs are.
Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks said her administrative experience comes from the construction company she and a partner started in 2001, specializing in residential construction and custom homes. A few years ago she also started a coffee shop downtown, which she later sold.
Hicks also spoke about her participation in the South Umpqua Riverfront Cleanup project, which involves cleaning up property belonging to the railroad from Micelli Park to the south end of Roseburg. She said she worked with the county commissioners to ensure that, once the county began charging landfill fees, volunteers would be able to dump the trash they’d cleaned up for free.
“This last year I’ve been very busy mostly around promoting rural tourism and outdoor recreation, advocating for more time outdoors and communicating with folks about the benefits, the mental and physical health benefits of time spent outside,” she said.
On the commissioners’ performance, she said, “I think you guys got stuck with the dirty job of years of poor management. I don’t hold you guys accountable for that.”
Hicks is also running on the November ballot.
John Hunter said he has customer service experience from 30 years as a general contractor specializing in remodeling. But he objected to the idea that what the county’s doing is customer service. He said citizens aren’t customers.
“These are fellow citizens we’re dealing with. These are registered voters. These are individuals with problems and needs. We must remember, if you’re on the board of commissioners, they are your employers,” he said.
Hunter said he has never run for public office. As for appointed positions, he said he’d applied for three different county boards but hadn’t been selected. He is a board member of the nonprofit environmental group Umpqua Watersheds.
When it came to describing what the commissioners had done well, Hunter wasn’t handing out compliments.
He told the commissioners they’d done an amazing job of “fulfilling the agendas of your financial supporters.”
He said they’ve done a great job of campaign fundraising, outspending their competitors 30 or 40 to one. But he didn’t think that was a good thing.
“That does not bode well for democracy,” he said.
Tim Allen is the owner of Tim Allen Equipment in Roseburg. He said he found opportunities to grow his business even while the economy was tanking.
He’s the past president of Think Local Umpqua, which focused on educating people about the value of shopping locally.
“This goes back to my passion for the community. As the economy was tanking, I felt pretty strongly that one of the things we could do to try and maintain whatever funds were here was to try and keep unnecessarily sending money outside our community,” he said.
Allen said he’s the past president and treasurer of the Oregon chapter of the American Rental Association. In 2018, he was recognized as Leader of the Year for that organization.
Allen also said he spent 12 years as a mechanic for Roseburg Public Schools.
He’s been on the city of Roseburg Economic Development Commission for six years and also worked on committees focusing on transportation and the downtown corridor street improvements. He served on Douglas County Search and Rescue and spent five years on The Partnership for Economic Development.
He applauded the commissioners for tirelessly working to generate revenue for the county. He said he’d like to see more effective communication with constituents about the county’s budget.
RICHARD VANDER VELDEN
Richard Vander Velden, a retired U.S. Navy engineer, oversaw repair operations that kept American ships battle ready. He said he left the military after 20 years of service. It was 2008 and the economy wasn’t great, so he went to work in a mining industry as a planner, he said.
“I’m running for interim commissioner to take Douglas County to a better place to live for its citizens, and especially for our kids,” he said. “After all, they are our future.”
He was elected to the Sutherlin District Water Board, which has given him the opportunity to work with citizens and the local government.
He criticized past commissioners, who he said “kept their heads down a lot” and made “narrow-sighted mistakes.”
“They allowed the new liberals controlling the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service to basically steal our birthright,” he said.
He praised current Commissioner Tim Freeman for fighting for increased harvests, and Commissioner Chris Boice for creating additional county income through purchasing an RV park on the coast.
Vander Velden is also running on the November ballot.
Christine Goodwin moved to Douglas County to teach and coach at Roseburg High School, where she built a practically nonexistent track program into one that won district championships. She later opened up a fitness club in Myrtle Creek.
She also opened a coffee business, SOCO Coffee in Myrtle Creek. She said she has hired a few hundred employees between the three businesses.
Goodwin was named Most Inspirational Leader in 1997 by the Myrtle Creek Chamber of Commerce. In 2008 she was named Myrtle Creek’s Woman of the Year.
She served on the executive board of the Community Cancer Center and is currently a member of the Douglas County Parks Advisory Board.
In 2002 she was elected to the South Umpqua School Board, where she helped develop a master plan and allowed “fierce conversation” to take place at public meetings on the plan, while keeping the discussion respectful. She also initiated the creation of the South Umpqua Schools Foundation.
Goodwin said the commissioners are “serving us well as CEOs of Douglas County.”
“I fully appreciate the challenges and the problems you address every day to change this downward financial trajectory of our county. A once wealthy county with lawful O&C funding from timber receipts, we are now fighting for that critical funding to sustain vital county services,” she said.
A seventh applicant, Dr. Steven Blum, was unable to deliver his presentation because he had to leave to cover the night shift at Mercy Medical Center. He had asked to speak early, but the order was determined by a random name draw and his name came out sixth.
For those who missed Monday evening’s presentations, they were live streamed and a video recording is available free at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/douglascountyoregon.