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For a new approach, Stine for Medford mayor

Medford voters have four candidates to choose from to replace retiring Mayor Gary Wheeler. Under Medford’s council-manager form of government the mayor has little power, voting only in case of a tie on the eight-member City Council, but there is potential for the right person to make a real impact.

Vying for the volunteer position are Randy Sparacino, who retired as Medford’s police chief last year after 30 years with the department, City Councilor Clay Bearnson, co-owner of the Gypsy Blues Bar on West Eighth Street, Councilor Kevin Stine, currently serving as City Council president, and Jim Huddleston, a former car salesman with a criminal record who is currently unemployed.

Sparacino has collected endorsements from Wheeler, Jackson County commissioners Rick Dyer and Bob Strosser, Sheriff Nathan Sickler and City Council members Michael Zarosinski and Tim D’Alessandro. After retiring from the Police Department, he worked as chief policy adviser to the city of Medford.

Sparacino clearly has administrative skills, and knowledge gained during his years in law enforcement. What he doesn’t have is experience in a high-visibility elective office. He acknowledges that dealing with the media wasn’t something he was eager to do as police chief, preferring to give his subordinates the limelight. That’s a positive trait in a police chief; it’s less so as a mayor.

The mayor of Southern Oregon’s largest city should seek out public attention, selling the city and all it has to offer to visitors and potential employers and representing Medford at the state Capitol.

That’s something Stine says he is eager to do, and something he’s already done, taking the lead in promoting the ballot measures that provided funding sources for the planned aquatic and events center. He has endorsements from City Council members Dick Gordon and Eric Stark and Medford School Board members Karen Starchvick and Jeff Kinsella.

After serving nine years in the U.S. Navy, Stine worked with ACCESS connecting homeless veterans with housing. He completed a bachelor’s degree at Southern Oregon University while serving on the council and is a substitute teacher for the Medford School District.

Bearnson makes a case for a bipartisan approach to what is a nonpartisan office. His service on the Parking Commission led us to endorse him in his bid for a Ward 2 council seat, where he has served competently, but we think his skills are more suited to continuing in that role than becoming mayor.

Huddleston has a felony conviction and served a jail sentence for driving under the influence, and faced accusations of domestic violence against a former spouse, which were dropped when she left the state.

We are less concerned about past mistakes than we are that the last time he voted in a presidential election was 2008, and his registration was automatically canceled after he failed to vote in 2012 and 2016. He says he mistakenly believed Oregon law barred felons from voting — it doesn’t. He also leveled personal attacks against all three of his opponents.

Huddleston declined an invitation to participate in a joint interview with the Mail Tribune editorial board after the paper published a news story about his criminal background. Medford residents should decline to give him their votes.

Voters have two highly qualified candidates in Sparacino and Stine. For us, Stine’s energy and enthusiasm for the job gives him the edge. We think he would make the office of mayor more than a ceremonial one.