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Endorsement: Thomas for Ward 1

Four candidates are vying for the open Ward 1 seat on the Medford City Council. Two are strong contenders and would make valuable contributions, while the other two are less attractive for very different reasons.

Jeff Thomas, owner of Connecting Point, brings a long history of community service to his council bid, including eight years on the Medford School Board, five of those as chairman. He currently serves on the Medford Planning Commission.

Thomas ran for Jackson County commissioner in 2016, losing to Bob Strosser. We spoke highly of both candidates that year, although we endorsed Strosser on the strength of his City Council experience with land use, among other things. This year, we think Thomas is the best choice for a seat on the council.

His strongest opponent is Sarah Spansail, an accounting clerk for a local lumber company. She has served in the past on the Ashland Housing and Community Services Commission, and advocates for housing that is affordable for working families.

Spansail was impressively well prepared for our joint interview. She anticipated our questions and had clearly put in the time to craft detailed responses.

Both Thomas and Spansail support the planned event and aquatics center in west Medford.

Candidate Rick Schreffler was notably unprepared, and had some difficulty responding to questions, raising the possibility that he would be ineffective in a group setting such as a City Council meeting. Schreffler is a former member of the Rogue Valley Transportation District board.

Also on the ballot is Curt Ankerberg, a perennial candidate who has previously run unsuccessfully for the Medford City Council, the Medford School Board, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the Oregon State Senate. Ankerberg is confrontational, accusing city officials and others of “corruption” without evidence. He has publicly attacked political opponents and threatened others using profane language. In past campaigns he has declared that he could single-handedly fix city problems as an individual council member.

A former certified public accountant, Ankerberg was found by a tax court in 2018 to have filed fraudulent tax returns understating his income and improperly claiming deductions. The court ordered him to pay penalties and back taxes. The Oregon Board of Accountancy fined him later the same year, but suspended the fine subject to conditions, including that he not refer to himself as a retired CPA — which he did in the 2019 voters’ pamphlet.

This year, Ankerberg’s voters’ pamphlet statement describes his occupational background as “Retired after 33 years managing Certified Public Accounting firms.” That may satisfy the Board of Accountancy, but it shouldn’t satisfy voters.

We recommend Jeff Thomas for Medford City Council, Ward 1.