County commissioners face challengers
Jackson County Commissioners Rick Dyer and Colleen Roberts face challengers in the November election, but not in the May primary.
Dyer is the only Position 1 candidate to file for the Republican Party for the May 15 primary election, while Amy Thuren is the only candidate to file for the Democratic Party.
Unless one or the other is defeated by a write-in candidate this spring, Dyer and Thuren will face each other in November.
The same situation is playing out for Roberts, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger, Lanita Witt, as they compete for Position 3 on the board.
Commissioner Bob Strosser was elected to Position 2 in 2016 and won’t be up for re-election until 2020.
Dyer, the owner of Northwest Energy Solutions, said he is seeking re-election because he still has work to do.
“The first term really has a learning curve for a new commissioner,” he said. “We’ve been doing more constructive and productive things in the last few years.”
Dyer said he is committed to fiscally responsible decision-making and wants to keep the county on strong financial footing.
The county needs to explore the feasibility of a new, larger jail, which would allow for more effective treatment of drug addiction, mental health and crime issues in the community, he said.
Dyer is a strong proponent of career and technical education in local schools.
“It’s extremely important to give kids a path. That way, we capture all kids, even those who aren’t headed to college,” he said. “We can say, ‘There’s an opportunity for you to be successful.’ ”
Dyer has a law degree from Concord Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University in business and accounting.
Thuren is the executive director of The Valley School of Southern Oregon, a Medford charter school for middle school students.
She was formerly the executive director of the American Red Cross Southern Oregon Chapter and the local Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
“It’s important to have different community voices in our local government,” Thuren said. “Community matters.”
She said she has a range of experience, from running a charter school to helping people achieve financial literacy and debt reduction.
“I can bring diverse groups together. I felt like it would be a great opportunity to bring that to the county level,” Thuren said.
She said she wants to address issues that include the overcrowded jail, the mental health crisis and the housing shortage.
Listening to people and doing extensive research is the key to making good policy decisions, Thuren said.
She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Roberts said she is running for re-election because she has gained momentum and knowledge about the complexities of the county during her first term.
“I look forward to continuing my work with the citizens and the administration and putting all that knowledge and experience toward a stronger and more economically sound county,” she said.
Roberts describes herself as a constitutional conservative, fiscal watchdog and private property rights advocate.
She said she is concerned about the impact of federal government decisions on the local community.
Roberts said improper forest management on federal land has created wildfire and smoke issues, and the presence of wolves is now impacting the cattle industry.
“I see myself as a fighter,” Roberts said. “More local control and less federal oversight is something I’m passionate about.”
The owner of Sensational Sweets bakery, she has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in business from Walden University.
Witt is a retired physician who specialized in urogynecology. She is the co-owner of Willow-Witt Ranch.
“I feel I can contribute with my listening skills and problem-solving ability to address the issues the county faces,” she said.
Witt said she would like to increase mental health care and addiction treatment. Untreated mental illness has wide-ranging effects, from straining hospital emergency rooms to contributing to homelessness, Witt said.
A shortage of affordable housing is impacting a cross-section of the community, she said.
“Homelessness is affecting young families and the aging population can’t afford senior housing,” she said, noting that for many senior citizens, their monthly Social Security check is consumed by rent.
“I’m very passionate about living in the Rogue Valley and all it has to offer,” she said. “The county has a balanced budget, and I want to contribute to that.”
Witt has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Texas Woman’s University and received her medical degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.