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Joel Ockunzzi profile

Jackson County commissioner candidate Joel Ockunzzi wants to boost the local economy by reducing barriers to development and logging, while attracting new businesses such as those in the high-tech sector through enterprise zones.

Ockunzzi is facing off against fellow Republican Colleen Roberts in the May primary for Jackson County Board of Commissioners Position 3.

A White City resident, Ockunzzi, 63, works as a real estate broker. He was previously division president of operations for Austin Powder Co., a manufacturer of explosives for mining, construction and other industries.

Ockunzzi said the county should work to alleviate barriers to new construction and the creation of businesses that provide family-wage jobs.

"Builders and developers need to have confidence that they can locate here," said Ockunzzi.

As a county planning commissioner, Ockunzzi helped review the Regional Problem Solving plan, which will guide development to prepare for a doubling of the area's population.

Ockunzzi said the plan outlines where urban development can occur and protects farmland.

He said the county should review its zoning because many rural properties with substandard soil and inadequate water could be rezoned for more intensive development. Rezoning would increase their market value and property tax revenue for the county.

Ockunzzi said logging that balances recreational uses and good forest management should be encouraged to create jobs.

"We should promote good forest management, including in burn areas before we lose the commercial value of the wood, and restore those areas faster," he said. "We need good, well-managed forests for recreational opportunities."

Ockunzzi said his experience with the business community and in the land-use arena could help him bring disparate interests together to avoid logging appeals and delays.

To diversify the economy, he advocates offering businesses incentives to locate in enterprise zones. E-commerce companies, makers of recreational equipment and other businesses would fit in well, he said.

Concerning the proposed ban on growing genetically modified organisms, Ockunzzi said it will be up to voters to decide. But he is concerned that banning the legal practice of growing GMO crops is government overreach. If the ban doesn't pass, Ockunzzi said he favors developing a crop insurance program to protect small growers who lose revenue because of GMOs.

Ockunzzi said he likely will vote in May to approve the proposed library district. But he is concerned about the district's costs to people who own high-end homes or multiple properties. He would like to see a cap — such as $300 — on the amount a person would have to pay.

As for medical marijuana dispensaries, Ockunzzi said if marijuana is medicine, it should be distributed through pharmacies. He is concerned that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Ockunzzi said he will listen to people on all sides of issues.

"It's important to be able to meet with people who have different viewpoints and have everyone recognize you're going to listen to them," he said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

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