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Breidenthal heads lobbying group

Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal officially has assumed the presidency of a lobbying group representing Western counties, but the group has lined up a replacement in light of Breidenthal's loss to a challenger in the May Republican primary for his county commissioner seat.

Breidenthal will serve as president of the National Association of Counties Western Interstate Region until he leaves office in January 2017. Previously the sitting first vice president and president-elect, he was confirmed as the president during a WIR conference that ran May 25-27 in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

WIR members also seated a first vice president and two second vice presidents to prepare for Breidenthal's departure from elected office. The first vice president will bump up to the presidency. One of the two second vice presidents will become the first vice president, and the other will remain a second vice president, according to Chris Marklund, associate legislative director for WIR.

All the board roles are filled by county commissioners or county supervisors from Western states.

"It's not uncommon that we have to work through the impact of various elections," Marklund said of the succession plan.

He said Breidenthal's influence with Congress hasn't necessarily been diminished because he did not win the Republican primary election for his Jackson County commissioner seat.

"We work to maintain strong relationships on Capitol Hill. We draw on our leadership to help carry our message forward," Marklund said. "It's important to bring local voices to congressional offices."

Breidenthal said his county commissioner and supervisor colleagues at the conference could have decided not to have him assume the presidency.

"My colleagues had the decision to put somebody else in there or have me represent them," he said. "Overwhelmingly they wanted me to continue. Commissioners from across the western United States feel I'm the best."

During his campaign for the May primary election, Breidenthal cited his president-elect status as a reason for Jackson County voters to support him. He said the position allows him to represent Jackson County interests at a national level.

However, Breidenthal is under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for campaign contributions he received during his campaign to be named WIR president. Contributions came from organizations that have business before Jackson County commissioners.

He also has faced criticism for his extensive travel, travel expenditures and missed meetings here in Jackson County.

Bob Strosser — a principal broker with Coldwell Pro West in Medford, a former Medford city councilor and a former law enforcement officer — won the May Republican primary for Breidenthal's commissioner post.

Strosser won 46.5 percent of votes, businessman Gordon Challstrom finished second in the three-way race with 27.1 percent and Breidenthal was last with 26 percent.

Strosser will face Democrat Jeff Thomas in the November general election. Thomas, chairman of the Medford School Board, had no rivals in the Democratic primary.

With less than seven months left in his WIR term, Breidenthal said he is looking to establish a partnership between WIR and the Western Governors Association to bring more attention to western issues.

Breidenthal said he wants to work on reform of public lands management to put people back to work on federal lands while protecting natural resources.

He said mismanagement of public land by the federal government is fueling catastrophic wildfires.

Other significant issues include health care reform and transportation issues, Breidenthal said.

Breidenthal said although he has faced criticism for his travel, he believes his advocacy work on behalf of Jackson County and the West is having an impact on national legislation, especially in relation to public lands management and community wildfire protection plans.

Breidenthal also said he believes he has been a strong advocate for libraries, the Southern Oregon Historical Society and other local causes.

"I feel good about leaving office at the end of the year," he said.

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

Doug Breidenthal