Klamath County District Attorney Rob Patridge has been appointed chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Klamath County District Attorney Rob Patridge has been appointed chairman of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Gov. John Kitzhaber made the announcement Friday, saying Patridge has the skill to bring different parties together to find solutions.

Patridge is a former Medford City Council member and state representative who worked as a deputy district attorney in Jackson County for three years in the 1990s and ran unsuccessfully for Jackson County District Attorney in 2012. He also has worked as general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, parent company of Rogue Valley Manor, and district director for Congressman Greg Walden.

Patridge expressed gratitude to the governor for his appointment to the nonpaid position, then said he was likely chosen to lead the regulatory agency because he can provide a "public safety perspective."

"The OLCC is a huge economic engine for the state," Patridge said, adding the OLCC brings in Oregon's third-largest revenues "behind taxes and the lottery."

This is the third time Kitzhaber has appointed the ex-Republican legislator to a position in less than a year.

He put Patridge on the OLCC board in October, then chose him for the Klamath County district attorney job in April.

The OLCC has been without a permanent director since the governor forced Steve Pharo into retirement last year. Merle Lindsey is running the agency on an interim basis.

Patridge said he did not know when the governor might appoint a fifth member to an OLCC board now composed of fairly new members.

"All but one of the four members have been in place for less than three years," he said.

Meanwhile, the current board faces a "cultural change," Patridge said.

Potential ballot measures, such as those seen in Washington and other states, may push for the legalization of marijuana and allow all forms of liquor to be available in grocery stories. If either, or both, of those potential measures were to be successful, then OLCC likely would be the regulatory agency in charge of monitoring, he said.

"I am active and engaged from a public safety perspective," Patridge said. "There is a lot of cultural change in the state. The OLCC needs to administer this effectively."

Patridge commutes to his duties as the top law enforcement officer for Klamath Falls, he said.

Ongoing budget shortfalls, nine homicides in the past year, and a major drug raid that resulted in 52 arrests have plagued Klamath Falls, he said. Calling the sharp rise in murders both "unprecedented" and an "anomaly," Patridge said the county's "addiction-related problems" have kept him busy.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.