Two of the three seats on Marion County’s leadership council – its Board of Commissioners – will be decided in 2018. Commissioners serve a 4-year term of office.
Currently, eight candidates are vying for the two positions, Position 1 and Position 2. Because these are partisan races, the May 15 primary election will determine which Democrat and which Republican will face off during the November 6 general election.
County Commissioners are responsible for determining which policy issues require the most focus and action, they lead the county’s business functions, they ensure the county is prepared for emergencies and they take action to make sure that the county communicates in a timely, accurate way with its media, citizens and employees.
One candidate, Shelaswau Crier, is running on the Democratic Party ticket. This means that Crier will not be competing against another Democrat in May (except possibly a write-in) but will face a Republican challenger in November.
Crier, an educator, public speaker and community activist, graduated from Yale Law School with a J.D. and received a BA in Mathematics from Rice University. She serves on state agency committees and actively seeks to improve how the county addresses issues facing youth and working families.
“The Marion County issue I am most passionate about,” she says, “is mental health care. The national average for students dealing with mental health issues is 20% while the average for students in Salem-Keizer is closer to 25%. Having lost a family member by suicide, I have witnessed the devastation such a loss can cause. Other counties in Oregon have formed community and multi-county coalitions to effectively address increasing mental health issues. I plan to form a similar coalition, working with cities, school districts, and mental health professionals, to better meet the mental health needs of our community.”
Two Republicans will face off in May to compete against Crier in November. The first is Mark Pease, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Laundry Service worker and Assistant Manager of a Commercial and Homeowner Rental Business. With education from Chemeketa Community College, an ADN in Nursing and a BA in Education from Concordia University, Pease has had no prior governmental experience, but tells voters he is a consistent voter, “a person from this great nation, daring to make a difference for my family and others.”
Pease’s Voters Pamphlet statement cites the Constitution of the United States and points out that the country’s founders “Dared to be different for themselves and others making a great nation from the people.”
Pease is running in May against Kevin Cameron, the Commissioner who currently holds the position. Previously a state representative and involved in many business and community interests, Cameron serves on the Detroit Lake Recreation and Business Association, the United Way, the Oregon State Fair Council and SEDCOR. In his Voter’s Pamphlet statement, Cameron says, “As your County Commissioner I’ve worked to make sure your tax dollars are used efficiently to provide high levels of service to all citizens. I promise to keep reaching out, showing up to meetings where important decisions are being made and advocating for a better quality of life for all of you.”
Three Democrats are running in May to face a Republican contender in November for this position.
The first is Matt Plummer, Safety and Wellness Coordinator for Marion County. Plummer has an MS in Exercise Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Exercise and Sport Science at OSU. He’s worked as a Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Portland, an instructor of Health and Human Performance at Central Oregon Community College and has previously served on Silverton City Council and on the Silverton Budget Committee and the Silverton Urban Renewal Agency.
“The role of Commissioner,” he says, “should be to help all people and businesses in Marion County thrive. Our current County leadership is falling short of this. I will fight for attainable housing. I will fight for high-level education. I will fight for access to healthcare. I will fight for jobs. I will fight for economic development.”
Competing against Plummer is current Marion County Clerk, Bill Burgess. Burgess has a background in pharmacy, construction, food service management and farm work. He has served as Marion County Clerk since 2005, served on Salem City Council from 1990 – 1998, and was council President in 1998.
A member of numerous governmental associations, including the Oregon Association of Cities, Burgess tells voters in the Pamphlet that he “will work to keep our community safe, vibrant and prepared for the future. This includes enhancing transportation, including roads and transit, enhancing clean air and water, supporting business, including agri-business and family wage job development, and working to increase affordable housing, reduce homelessness, provide better healthcare and drug addiction treatment.”
The third Democrat vying to run against a Republican in November is Sadie V Carney, currently a Policy Analyst and Communications Manager for Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development. Carney has previously worked as Director of Community Relations for Salem-Keizer Transit and has served on the Salem City Council Public Transit Committee and as a Board Member of the Grant Neighborhood Association Board.
Carney says the issue she most cares about is, “Keeping our communities whole. The county administers a huge and diverse number of social service programs that deal with everything from families in crisis, to mental health care and public health, to drug addiction, prison, and rehabilitation. These programs impact everything from safety in our schools, to safety and stability at home. Related issues, like domestic violence, opportunities and support for women and families, all fall into the purview of work our county can do, conversations we can have a voice in.”
The May victor between these three Democrats will face one of two Republican contenders in November. The first possibility is Colm Willis, a small business attorney who was Valedictorian when he graduated from Willamette University’s College of Law. Willis has previous governmental experience as a staff member in the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee and as the Political Director of Oregon Right to Life.
Willis says his priorities are to advocate for Marion County roads and a third bridge to West Salem, to oppose property tax increases and to stop the Corps of Engineer project at Detroit Lake. Willis wants to promote Marion County Values, such as standing up for farmers and foresters, supporting the Sheriff’s office and supporting strong communities and families.
Willis is running in May against fellow Republican candidate, Brad Nanke, who owns Nanke & Associates Environmental Consulting firm and has a BS in Business Administration. Nanke has served as Salem City Councilor for Ward 3 since 2001 and has served on the League of Oregon Cities Board of Directors since 2011. Nanke’s Voter’s Pamphlet statement contains endorsements from Marion County Commissioners Janet Carlson and Sam Brentano, Former City of Salem Mayors Chuck Bennett, Anna Peterson and Janet Taylor and Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau.
Note: Salem Weekly invited all candidates who provided contact information (Pease had none) or web sites to comment on their goals as Commissioner. Only Crier and Carney replied.