GOLD BEACH Within two hours of being sworn in, new county commissioners Marlyn Schafer and Lucie La Bont were voted chair and vice chair of the commission, respectively.

La Bont moved to make Schafer the chair, and Schafer returned the favor by nominating La Bont as vice chair. In each case, Commissioner Cheryl Thorp seconded the motion.

The new commissioners opened the meeting by sharing some of their ideas for the county with the many department heads in attendance.

La Bont said, This is the first time in history that Curry County has three women on the commission.

She said they will assess the condition of the county, work on existing problems, and establish policies that work with our unique management styles.

La Bont has spent the past month meeting with department heads and elected officials to find out what their needs and concerns were.

I will work in a positive light with respect for my fellow elected officials, she said.

My priority will be to work as a team player and to be sure that all of the county professionals work together in the spirit of the public good.

To help identify the needs and concerns of the citizens, the commissioners will hold a series of town hall meetings. The first is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Chetco Senior Center in Brookings.

La Bont said she is already using her government experience for the benefit of Curry County.

She has been in contact with the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department concerning funding for a 5-year financial plan for the county.

She wants to move ahead with the 2001-02 budget process this month while gathering information about the new federal payments to counties law.

La Bont will continue to put her watershed and fishery experience to work for the county.

Shes been in contact with Garth Griffin of the National Marine Fisheries Service about a possible steelhead listing.

As liaison to the countys Public Services Department, she will meet with the fisheries service on the 4-D Rule which may impact property owners while improving water quality.

It may be possible to tie some of the planning that is necessary for compliance (with the 4-D Rule) with the watershed planning already in place, she said. La Bont was the chair of the South Coast Coordinating Watershed Council.

She said, I will continue to work on issues facing our fishing communities as a board member of the Klamath Coalition and representing the county at Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association meetings.

Also on La Bonts January agenda is the Local Government and Agency meeting in Brookings, a Medford meeting on the new federal payments law, and lobbying the legislature in Salem on Rural Oregon Day Jan. 16.

As liaison to the countys Emergency Services Department, she will meet with the residents of Garrison Lake in Port Orford concerning the flooding issue.

I have already met with the experts and fully discussed this issue, she said.

As the airport liaison, La Bont will tour the county airport in Brookings and work with state and federal agencies on upcoming projects.

She summed up by saying, I look to today as being the beginning of our opportunity to build on Curry Countys successes and to take a new look at issues that our professionals are concerned about.

Schafer said the commissioners will hold a series of work sessions with department heads. The first is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Jan. 10 in the commissioners hearing room and will feature the countys auditor. The public is invited to observe, but not participate.

Schafer intends to put her financial experience to good use working with the county treasurer and the Fiscal Services Department. She will work to put the occupancy costs, spread throughout the departments, into one account.

People need to know how much it costs to run county government, she said.

Schafer said she will work to make phone service toll-free within the county. She said some north county residents object because theyd lose toll-free calls to Bandon. She will also continue to work on a strategic plan for the county.

The new federal payments law dedicated money to rural schools, but it will go to the Oregon Department of Education instead of local districts. Schafer vowed to lobby to keep it in the rural education system.

For her part, Thorp congratulated the new commissioners and said she is looking forward to the next two years. She said shed be happy to work with them, even if they dont agree all the time.

Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Rural Oregon Day at the legislature, the commissioners will not meet the week of Jan. 15.

The next regular commissioners meeting has instead been scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 22.