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Candidates stake out positions

With three incumbents announcing they are leaving office at the end of the year, 16 candidates have come forward for four Medford council races and the mayor's race in the Nov. 8 election.

Councilors Eli Matthews, Chris Corcoran and Daniel Bunn have decided not to seek re-election.

In Ward 4 alone, five candidates are running for Bunn's seat. In Ward 3, four candidates are hoping to replace Corcoran. Matthews' Ward 2 position has brought out three candidates.

The Mail Tribune has covered many of the candidates in previous articles. Following are a brief overview of remaining candidates and the issues they think are important to the community:

Dick Gordon, Ward 1

Incumbent Dick Gordon, 73, who has been a councilor since 2009, said some of his accomplishments include helping to build a new police station, new fire stations and new parks and expanding the city's boundaries for future growth.

"A lot has been accomplished in Medford over the years, but I would rather talk about the future," he said.

Public safety will continue to be one of Gordon's priorities.

He said he wants to continue to improve economic opportunities locally, particularly to lend support to the booming health care industry. "We need to continue to provide an educated workforce and ensure they have available housing," he said.

The city should do more to provide incentives to developers to build in the downtown and in the economically depressed Beatty-Manzanita district, Gordon said.

Gordon also said the state should shoulder more of the cost of local road projects that benefit the entire region. He noted the city had to borrow $10 million for its share in widening a one-mile stretch of Foothill Road just north of McAndrews Road as part of a project to provide an alternative to Interstate 5.

Curt Ankerberg, Ward 1

Curt Ankerberg, a local accountant, has run in various races over the past 10 years, including for Medford School Board and for Jackson County commissioner. He ran against Gordon in 2012.

Ankerberg said in an email to the Mail Tribune that he had "no desire to speak with any" reporters at the paper. "Anything I say won't be reported accurately, and they'll spin what I say in an attempt to make me look bad," he said.

Jim Herndon, Ward 2

Jim Herndon has been in public service most of his life and has served in the military in Vietnam, as a federal investigator and in a contract intelligence position in Iraq for seven years, he said.

He has run a small trucking company, has been involved in veterans' issues and has been a supporter of the Vietnam Wall replica, scheduled to be built at U.S. Cellular Community Park once funds are raised.

"I'm a disabled vet now," he said. "I need to give something back to my community, and Medford is my home, so joining the City Council is one way of doing it."

The large number of veterans who are homeless is a major issue for him, and he wants the city and the region to do more to help those who've sacrificed for their country.

"I'm not a politician, and I'm not polished," he said. "We need to look at the homeless problem, and we need to look at helping people on fixed incomes."

He said the price of housing continues to go up, putting those on fixed incomes in a bind.

Nick Lancaster, Ward 2

Nick Lancaster, an herbicide applicator for the Jackson County Roads Department, has served as vice president of the Service Employees International Union Local 497 and is on an employee hardship committee.

Lancaster, 34, said he has been thinking about running for four years, and when he realized Eli Matthews wasn't going to run for re-election, he decided to enter the race.

"There's no specific issue driving me to be on the council other than wanting to give back to the community," he said. "I want to be involved."

Generally, Lancaster supports the direction the council has been headed recently. "I thought Eli was a little bit conservative for my taste," he said.

He thinks the council has taken a harder line on the issue of marijuana than he'd prefer.

"We need to go out of our way to make sure recreational marijuana is sold in Medford," he said. The city stands to receive a good share of tax dollars if it allowed recreational sales in the city, Lancaster said.

Currently the city prohibits recreational sales, but voters in November will be asked to approve recreational sales of marijuana as well as a local 3 percent sales tax.

Lancaster, who has a young child, said he's also concerned about improving Ward 2, which has some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Some of the two-lane roads don't have sidewalks and have only drainage ditches, making them unsafe for children, he said.

Don Libby, Ward 3

Don Libby ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2014 and for the School Board in 2015.

"I am running for City Council for the same reason as before, to ensure the city represents everyone’s best interests," Libby said in a prepared release.

The 33-year-old Medford native has operated two businesses in Medford and wants to push for more fiscal responsibility on the council.

He said the council failed to listen to Medford residents when it decided to raise fees to pay for new police and fire stations.

"Regardless if you think we needed them or not, they clearly ignored the voices of Medford residents and did what they wanted," he said.

Libby said he supports marijuana rights and would push for as little regulation as possible so marijuana is treated no differently than cigarettes or alcohol.

He said he supports property rights and would block any attempts to declare eminent domain.

"With every new law, ordinance or regulation, a part of our freedom is taken away," he stated. "Although some laws, ordinances and regulations are needed, I believe a lot are not."

Chad McComas, Ward 3

Chad McComas, pastor at Set Free Christian Fellowship, has been an outspoken advocate for the homeless in Medford. He founded Rogue Retreat, which provides housing for the homeless, in 1998, and is on the boards of Addictions Recovery Center and Compass House, an organization helping the mentally ill.

McComas, 62, who has two grown children, has been championing a local effort to build a tiny house project, known as Hope Village, that would serve the homeless.

He said most of the 120 members of the two congregations at his church are people struggling through various issues, including mental health, homelessness and drug addiction.

McComas said he's been contemplating expanding his outreach in recent years.

"I sensed the Lord has been telling me to serve more people," he said.

Even though he feels strongly about his Christian faith, and publishes The Christian Journal, McComas said he doesn't think his faith would be an issue on the council.

"I'm not going to be turning the city into a homeless dump," he said. "I want to be a man of integrity."

At the same time, he said it's too easy for many cities to be overly influenced by the interests of the community that are governed by money.

"The little guy often gets overseen by the big guy," he said.

Curt Turner, Ward 3

General contractor Curt Turner, who is a member of the Medford Site Plan and Architectural Commission, has four children and his goal is to give them a reason not to leave the valley when they grow up.

"My main mission is to make Medford the kind of place where my children want to stay," he said. "All my kids are talking about leaving."

Turner, 45, said Medford needs more opportunities and amenities that big cities offer.

"We also have to make sure that Medford keeps its identity," he said.

Turner's interest in local government was piqued when the school district considered closing Jackson Elementary nine years ago.

"With a great deal of effort from the entire community, we forced the school to reverse its decision twice," he said.

He said that two-year battle began his interest in getting involved in the community.

George Schroeder, Ward 4

Local businessman George Schroeder has been heavily involved in Medford for years, serving on the Parking Commission, the Medford Urban Renewal District board and the Medford Arts Commission. He ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2014.

Schroeder, 63, said he knows the city well and knows the issues he'll get behind.

"I'm really huge on public safety," he said.

Schroeder said he would push to rebuild the fire station on Highland Drive near the roundabout, a project that was tabled after the city ran low on funds because of cost overruns for two other fire stations and the police station.

He said he's a big supporter of a pool and other aquatics facilities, favoring Hawthorne Park because it is centrally located and is close to the Medford Senior Center and downtown. He said the city plans to build a pedestrian bridge across Bear Creek that would better connect the downtown with Hawthorne.

Schroeder said he's a believer in self-sustaining government, citing the parking district, which collects leases and other revenues to pay for itself.

The council could also direct more energy into providing more assistance for mental health, which also ties into the homeless issue facing Medford, Schroeder said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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Curt Turner
Chad McComas