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Walker will succeed retiring Beckett as county clerk

Jackson County commissioners picked Christine "Chris" Walker as the new county clerk Wednesday to replace Kathy Beckett, who is leaving office Jan. 31 after running the Elections Center and Recorder's Office 25 years.

Walker, a 41-year-old Phoenix resident, vowed to continue running local elections and recording important paperwork for Jackson County residents in the same non-partisan manner as Beckett, who is retiring for health reasons.

"It is my intention to be objective, fair and impartial," Walker said.

The county clerk job is an elected position and pays $74,110 annually plus benefits.

Walker said she resigned from working with the Jackson County Republican Central Committee last week because of the nonpartisan nature of her new job.

She said her political leanings would have no bearing on her job, and she vowed to uphold the law.

"When you run an office like this you have to be nonpartisan whether you agree or disagree with something personally," she said. "I don't plan on being a rogue person."

Commissioners C.W. Smith and Dave Gilmour voted in favor of allowing Walker to take over the county clerk's job on Feb. 4. Commissioner Jack Walker abstained from voting because Christine Walker is his niece.

She said she would uphold a new domestic partnership law if it survives legal challenges. "Whatever the courts decide we will go with," she said.

Kathy Beckett is named in a lawsuit challenging her and other clerks throughout the state for not counting signatures that they deemed invalid on a referendum against the Oregon Family Fairness Act scheduled to take effect in January. The law would give same-sex couples additional rights. Beckett said she was just following Oregon law in not counting invalid signatures.

Walker said she couldn't comment on whether she would have counted the signatures, saying she wasn't involved in the process.

She was the only qualified candidate who submitted her application for the job and has announced she will run for the office in the November election.

Walker has worked at the clerk's office for 13 years, starting in an entry level position and working her way up to deputy recorder, currently overseeing property tax appeals and passport programs.

Her family has a long history in the valley. Her great grandfather, August Singler, was elected sheriff in 1912 and died in the line of duty.

Walker's current challenger for that position is Recording Supervisor Cheryl Avgeris, who was unable to apply for the job of county clerk because she had been a resident of Jackson County for a full year.