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Pair of county co-workers compete for clerk's position

Jackson County commissioners are poised to select a new county clerk next week, setting the stage for an election campaign that could pit a manager against one of her employees in November.

Deputy Clerk Chris Walker could be appointed interim county clerk next week, according to Commissioner C.W. Smith. County commissioners interviewed her Tuesday morning, and she said she plans to run for the nonpartisan office in the fall.

Smith said Walker is the only qualified candidate to submit an application from within the Jackson County Clerk's Office. Walker would replace Kathy Beckett, who will retire Jan. 31 for health reasons.

Smith said Walker is the niece of Commissioner Jack Walker, who has recused himself from voting on this matter.

Beckett had earlier announced Recording Supervisor Cheryl Avgeris — Chris Walker's boss — would be taking over the job until the election is held. Avgeris, however, just moved to Medford from Grants Pass in October, and did not meet the one-year residency requirement for the job of county clerk.

Avgeris, who has previously lived in Jackson County, has announced she would be running for the county clerk seat.

Beckett, who has been county clerk for 25 years, said it has been many years since the clerk's position was contested.

"It's a little tough to have two people in the same office running for the same position," she said. "But it won't be the first time, and it won't be the last."

She said she's heard of two colleagues running against each other in other parts of the state, but not locally in recent memory.

Walker, 41, of Phoenix, said that working next to Avgeris while they are campaigning against each other shouldn't be a problem.

"We respect each other and we have worked together for 12 years," she said.

Avgeris, 54, said she didn't think there would be any problem working with her campaign rival.

"I think it'll be fine," she said. "I don't think there will be a problem."

Beckett said she expects other candidates to come forward who want to file for county clerk by the March 11 deadline.

At this point, she said she won't make any endorsements until she gets a chance to see the full field of candidates.

Beckett said Avgeris has been a manager in the recording office since 2002.

"I've never seen Chris (Walker) in a management position," she said. "As far as I know she's never had a management position."

Walker said she hasn't had a management position, but is in charge when other managers are on vacation or absent from the office.

Avgeris said she has worked side by side with Beckett for the past 10 years.

"I have a lot of experience," she said.

Her residency requirement will be met in October, which allows her to run for the office in November, Avgeris said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.