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Two people file to seek positions on RVTD board

Connie Skillman led recall effort; Douglas Hewett is tired of 'a do-nothing board'

Connie Skillman, who led two recall efforts against five Rogue Valley Transportation District board members, is one of two candidates who will be vying for the position now held by board chairwoman Eva Avery.

Skillman and Douglas Hewett, both of Ashland, have filed applications with the county elections department indicating they will run in the May 20 election.

Skillman said community leaders asked her to run for the office because of their concern over the direction in leadership at RVTD.

I have not planned this, she said. This is not something I intended to do.

After attending every RVTD board meeting since June, Skillman said she has a thorough knowledge of the workings of the organization.

Skillman organized two recall efforts against Avery, Susan McKenzie, Kay Harrison, Carol Bennett and Mary Wooding.

The recall efforts failed, but Skillman said enough signatures were gathered to show that the community is concerned about the conduct of the board.

I want to work toward regaining credibility in the district, she said.

Douglas Hewett decided to run because I'm tired of a do-nothing board.

A supporter of the recall effort, Hewett said he also supports Skillman's decision to run. Hopefully, one of us will get it, he said.

As a person who takes an RVTD bus every day to go to work at Bear Creek Corp., Hewett said he has a personal interest in making sure the transportation needs of the valley are met.

I'm tired of going to work and not getting there on time, he said.

Hewett has talked to people who work at RVTD and others and has discovered that many Jackson County residents want Saturday service and longer hours.

Since Hewett doesn't find the kind of leadership he would like at RVTD, he said, If you want change, you have to get involved.

Avery, who hasn't yet filed with the county, said she will run again and welcomes the competition for her job.

I think the more people that file the better, she said. That way there is more chance of getting a really quality person.

Despite the contentions of Skillman and others, Avery said the operations of RVTD are running smoothly.

In fact, she said the board is undertaking some changes that will save money, allowing for better service to RVTD customers.

The board recently brought in-house the administrative oversight of Valley Lift, a federally mandated program that provides rides to the disabled.

Avery said prior to the change, the Valley Lift program was over budget. The taxi companies had a surcharge (to RVTD) of &

36;15 to White City and &

36;20 to Ashland and none of that was in the contract, she said.

Different taxi companies were also charging different rates for the same service, she said.

While she's working to clean up problems with RVTD's budget, she also promises to run a clean campaign.

I will not get into anything negative, she said. That will not serve the district ' that will not serve the community.

Another board member, Ed Chapman, has submitted an application with the county indicating he will run again.

No one has filed for the board position held by Dan Moore, who was recently appointed to the RVTD board to replace Stan Druben.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. March 20 to file their applications with the Elections Center.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail