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No good choice

Candidates in commissioners'race all have shortcomings

The race for Jackson County Commissioner Position — pits Jack Walker, a seasoned incumbent, against two challengers, neither of whom seem to have a clear understanding of what it takes to run a county. We cannot endorse either challenger, but neither are we recommending a vote for Walker.

Democrat Tom Winmill is articulate and personable, but has no experience at any level of county government. He and Diane Davidson, a former Republican Party chairwoman running as an independent, both criticize the current board of commissioners for considering Measure 37 claims in closed-door executive sessions.

We share that concern, but neither Winmill nor Davidson, in our judgment, is ready for the demanding job of understanding complex land-use regulations and grappling with the potential funding crisis facing the county.

Both challengers also advocate expanding the board of commissioners from three to five to add diversity and to reflect the county's transition from a rural county to a metropolitan population center. This is an idea worthy of serious consideration &

8212; but it would require changing the county charter, something the commissioners do not have the power to do.

Neither candidate has a clear idea of what should be done if federal timber funding disappears from the county budget. Winmill says he would "try everything" before asking voters for a tax levy, but doesn't seem to know what "everything" might involve.

Davidson advocates returning the former Oregon & California Railroad lands to county ownership and management. That's an idea that has been floating around for years, but it's pie in the sky rather than a realistic solution.

She criticizes the proposed library levy, saying operating funds should come from the county budget, but cannot say where that money might be found.

Walker is in his 12th year as commissioner, and that experience shows. He is well-versed in the complexities of county operations and clearly takes his job seriously.

We part ways with him, however, on his approach to developing rural land. Walker has enthusiastically embraced Measure 37, which allows property owners to apply for waivers of land-use regulations, and then took it a step further by pushing through a land-use provision that will allow for more rural home sites.

Under Walker's leadership, Jackson County has moved more quickly and more forcefully than any other county in the state to destroy its livability.

We wish there were a strong opponent for Walker, but there isn't. We offer no endorsement in the race for Position — on the Board of Commissioners.

Retain GilmourIf you like the policies of the majority of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners (and as noted above, we often don't) you'll like Republican Craig Prewitt, who is seeking election to Position — on the board. In an interview with Prewitt, we did not find a single area in which he differed with incumbent commissioners Jack Walker and C.W. Smith.

Electing Prewitt would put a unanimous team in place to pursue an all-out strategy of promoting growth and developing rural areas. Can you say, "San Jose"?

Incumbent Commissioner Dave Gilmour is outnumbered and often helpless to stop the development train, but he has provided a voice of caution and opposition, while maintaining a cordial working relationship with Walker and Smith. We recommend that Jackson County voters interested in protecting the county from rampant development vote to retain Gilmour.

In some ways, we wish Prewitt were running for one of the other seats, because he is bright and brings with him a commendable record as a 15-year member of the Phoenix-Talent School Board and as the current vice president of the Oregon School Boards Association.

But he's not &

8212; instead he's running against the only commissioner who is urging caution as the county pushes for more and more development into rural areas.

We agree with Prewitt's criticism of Gilmour's part-time status &

8212; he continues to maintain his physician's practice, while also serving as a full-time elected official. He says he puts in 40-hour weeks, but Prewitt is right in saying that he is often not available to constituents.

But just showing up is not the most important thing in this job. The county will wrestle with many critical issues in the years ahead &

8212; the likelihood of a massive reduction in federal funding, budget issues that threaten the library system and the Sheriff's Office and the many growth and development issues.

If we have a Board of Commissioners determined to march lockstep into that future, we all are in trouble. We urge a vote for Dave Gilmour for Position — on the Board of Commissioners, to ensure that the many points of view in this county are given their due.