Lane County’s Public Works Department staff asked me to answer a series of questions for inclusion an upcoming newsletter. Here are the questions and my responses:
ON BEING A COMMISSIONER…
1. What do you believe are critical abilities or skillsets ideal for a County Commissioner?
Experience with a broad range of public service issues. Ability to make critical decisions in a dynamic budget and service environment. An understanding that as information and situations change, continual review of opinions and actions are necessary.
2. Why did you want to be a Commissioner for Lane County?
My experience in management of highly successful business and nonprofit organizations along with my elective service on the School Board, Eugene City Council and in the Oregon State Legislature place me in a unique position to help lead the County through its most complex and ground-breaking years.
3. 4-6 words that best describe you?
I am a servant-leader.
4. What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
I’ll give you a couple of choices:
1. I am a former infantry commander
2. I run 6-10 miles daily
3. I find relaxation in woodworking
5. What is your favorite Lane County park and what activities do you like to do there?
Orchard Point (close to my home)
Baker Bay (more distant but clearer water)
Boating and swimming and relaxing with family and friends
6. A little about you? (1-2 short paragraphs, possibly on where have you lived; family; what kinds of work you’ve done, etc.)
I was born in Sheffield, England and moved to Tillamook County at age 11. After graduation from Cheesemaker High School (Tillamook, that is) I moved to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon. I met my wife Debi within fifteen minutes of arriving on campus. We have three remarkable children: Patrick, a graduate student in the Master of Philosophy program at University of Arizona; Evan, a PhD candidate in Political Theory and adjunct professor at the University of Virginia and Hayley, former Oregon State student and a barista having the time of her life living in downtown San Francisco.
I have spent my professional years as an executive manager at Jerry’s Home Improvement Center (nearly 20 years sales, merchandise, human resource and general operations management); General Manager of Gray’s Garden Centers; Executive Director of FOOD for Lane County and as an associate of the Lindholm Company. I have served on the Board of Directors of Oregon Food Bank and SELCO.
My elective service began with the Bethel School Board, extended through the Eugene City Council (total of 10 years over a 20-year span), the Oregon House of Representatives and continues with the Lane County Board of County Commissioners.
ON PUBLIC WORKS…
7. What have you observed in Public Works that makes you glad to be on the Board of Commissioners?
I am pleased to be a part of the broad array of services, activities and access that are offered by the County through the Public Works department.
ON BUDGET GOALS & MORALE…
8. What is your assessment of Public Works’ performance and what, if anything, do you think we should do to address the department’s budget issues?
The County and its residents are blessed to have a professional and proficient staff that works wonders with the diminished resources available through a constrained budget.
The only suggestion I have is to continue to make the public aware of how much of their every day quality of life is affected and touched by the activities of the Public Works Department. I look forward to being a part of the effort to elevate people’s understanding and support of the work the staff does through the services they provide.
9. What are your ideas to fund Lane County Public Works Department dwindling resources?
Once again, elevating public understanding of the importance and critical nature of the services provided.
Funding all County activities is dependent upon a robust and expanding economy. Helping create prosperity at all levels by increasing the number and quality of jobs available will gradually help to solidify and bring back service levels.
10. What are your 5 most important priorities for lane county government?
1. Public safety through adequate funding of the Sheriff, Youth Services, District Attorney departments.
2. Strengthening the local economy by adding employment opportunities, using our natural resources and strengthening existing businesses while attracting new diversified employers.
3. Working ever more closely with other jurisdictions in maximizing assets and resources.
4. Maintaining the quality of living (the air we breathe, the water we drink and the sights we see) in Lane County by managing transportation and land use issues in a manner that ensures carefully managed growth without detracting from our natural environment.
5. Making the working environment for the men and women who are employed by Lane County a desired destination for a career.
11. What is your perception of the current morale of an average Lane County employee?
Most of my contact to date has been in the administrative offices and I perceive a sense of relief in having more contentious times behind us. County wide I see a talented staff that is poised and ready to use its extensive ability and desire to excel to move into a more rewarding and productive future. Consolidation of departments has caused, perhaps, some pockets of resistance, but overall as a sense of accomplishment and success is manifested morale is on the rise.
12. What is you viewpoint on the proposed levy?
While it does not provide the ongoing stability we need to effectively deliver a well-balanced set of public safety services it addresses the most dangerously unstable element relating to release of stabbers and robbers and rapists. I will speak publicly often and in depth in order to answer the public’s questions and build their trust in the use of the levy dollars. I will also continue to work on a longer-term long-range set of solutions to addressing prevention, justice and youth issues.
13. How do you feel about a sales tax in Oregon?
When I was in the Legislature I served on a joint Senate and House Committee which studied elements of tax reform in Oregon. We looked at the unstable nature of Oregon’s tax system which relies heavily on income tax supplemented by property taxes and fees. It was confirmed to be a system that will be rocked by instability of revenue as long as it exists in its current form.
Any consideration of a sales tax in Oregon would have to reassure citizens that:
1. It would not be a net increase in tax liability for Oregon families (by reducing other existing and even more regressive taxes and fees)
2. That out-of-state visitors would contribute to Oregon’s revenue much the same as Oregonians contribute to other states when we visit there.
3. That it would be written into the Oregon Constitution and could not be increased without a vote of the people.