Four candidates compete for seat in May 15 election
The Curry Coastal Pilot /
A set of interviews with four candidates for the position of Curry County Commisioner.
Susan Brown says she wants to be elected to the Curry County Board of Commissioners to bring integrity back to the leadership and to help the county through its economic problems.
"I see a future for Curry County. I don't see us turning out the lights and closing the doors. I see it as an opportunity to be a strong county, Brown said. "What I'm hearing is voters are tired of hearing all the negativity. They're liking my message because it's positive. They're tried of hearing the county's got one more year to survive."
"We're always in a crisis, moving from one crisis to another. They want to hear that Curry County has a future. We're not just going to dry up and blow away. They like that message that we're working toward the future," Brown said.
"My platform, the reason I'm doing this, I'm really frustrated as a citizen, as a voter, in the direction the county is going, the leadership," Brown said.
Brown of Gold Beach is one of four candidates for the nonpartisan Position 3, along with incumbent Bill Waddle of Brookings, Greg Empson of Gold Beach and John Herzog of Brookings.
"I don't think the public is being informed, getting the honest leadership. I want to bring the integrity back to the office. You ask me a question, I'll answer," she said.
"Also, we need leaders that more than react to the situation. We need to start planning some long-term future growth for the county, where we want to go, so everybody in the county knows where we are, what we want to be, revenue strings for county government and what businesses are good for Curry County," she said.
Brown was Curry County Director of Economic and Community Development before the current commissioners closed that office, combining it with their office staff in the budget for the fiscal year that began last July 1.
"Through the Curry County Economic Development, we were able to work with dozens and dozens of businesses, successfully creating and retaining more than 300 jobs in Curry County," Brown said. "We brought in more than $5 million in the county through grants, business loans and programs."
She says the county needs to go after more businesses.
"We need to take advantage of businesses that are popping up and take advantage of them. All that means a bigger tax base, job growth and to have people working," Brown said.
She said along with economic growth, the county needs to concentrate on community growth.
"We need organization to reach out to people, the nonprofits serving the citizens, to develop a strong government," Brown said.
Brown said she has four and a half years' experience in economic development, has been a grant writer for 19 years, and was a business owner in Nevada for 15 years, where she was a member of the town council and was a member of the economic development board.
"I have successfully planned and written strategic plans for organizations and business marketing plans. I've got relationships developed with local and state government agencies," she said.
"Curry County is a pretty unique place. It's got a lot of assets. We've got to work on using the assets we have. I think I could be a strong leader in the county. I have a lot of resources, a lot of expertise," she said.
"We have a lot of opportunities here," Brown said. "We can bring those opportunities to fruition, we can do it."
Greg Empson says the sales tax proposed by the current Curry County commissioners isn't needed to solve the county's financial crisis. He says the county can survive by cutting benefits current employees receive and approving a tax only on prepared meals.
"If we cut those benefits, we'll save a lot of money," said Empson, one of four candidates for County Commissioner Position 3.
Empson of Gold Beach, incumbent Bill Waddle of Brookings, Susan Brown of Gold Beach and John Herzog of Brookings are running in the nonpartisan contest.
The two who receive the most votes in the May 15 primary election will face off in the November general election unless one of the four receives a clear majority.
"I moved here eight years ago from Florida," Empson said. "I've never run for public office, never worked for government. "I've always been in private industry and I think that's the approach we need to take."
Empson retired to Gold Beach after a 31 year career in the hotel-casino industry.
"I would like to see county government revamped," he said. "I'm big on a county administrator."
Empson notes one of the current commissioners said that all but two of the department heads in county government following the spinning off of Health and Human Services, planned for this summer, will be elected officials and a county administrator wouldn't be able to handle elected officials.
"They are public servants even if they are elected officials," Empson said. "There has to be responsibility in county government. No revenue generating measure is going to pass unless the public sees changes in county government."
Empson said that commissioners have hired a labor lawyer to negotiate contracts with the two unions which represent county employees. Both contracts are to expire next year.
"The commissioners have to tell this lawyer, they're hired to negotiate. They have to determine what benefits are proper. Otherwise, just pass the buck," Empson said.
He said accountability is lacking.
Empson said county employees now receive $1,000 a month toward health insurance. Not only do they receive the county's 14 percent of pay contribution toward their retirement, the county also pays the 6 percent the employees are supposed to pay.
"If we cut those benefits, we save a lot of money," Empson said.
Instead of the 3 percent sales tax the commissioners are considering, Empson said there should only be a tax on prepared meals.
"There's no reason for a sales tax," he said. "Replace it with a prepared meal tax. There's not as much revenue, but with the cuts in benefits, I believe that would be the short term solution."
Empson said he has spent his entire career in private enterprise.
"It seems like you should run the county as a business," he said.
"I'm just looking for one term to fix things," Empson said. "I would just like to have four years to try to change the direction of Curry County."
Bill Waddle, seeking his second term as a Curry County commissioner, says he has the experience and leadership needed in the job.
"We need solid leadership in people who know and understand what to do," Waddle said.
He said in his first term he has shown financial management and fiscal responsibility.
"We've downsized government to meet he demands of the people and the budget," Waddle said. "More work needs to be done. We want responsible people who have the experience and understanding how to do it, not just say what you think people want to hear."
Waddle is seeking re-election for Curry County commissioner Position No. 3. He is one of four candidates for the nonpartisan post, along with John Herzog of Brookings, Susan Brown of Gold Beach and Greg Empson of Gold Beach.
The two who receive the most votes in the May 15 primary election will face off in the November general election unless one of the four receive 50 percent of the votes cast plus 1.
Waddle says the top challenge for the county is revenue.
"We do not create enough local revenue to meet a responsible level of service to the citizens of Curry County," Waddle said.
Waddle says the current commissioners downsized county government from more than 200 staff to 150 last July, with plans to reduce to about 100 by July 2012 to meet fiscal demands.
He takes credit for initiating an investment program that resulted in the County Road Department reserve fund earning an additional $545,312.
Waddle lists previous experience as a deputy agricultural commissioner, who was a keynote speaker at state and federal workshops and a committee chair on statewide and national programs.
He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force, a combat crew member and instructor navigator, and headed a flying training program for a B-52 wing.
He was a vice president for Dean Witter Reynolds, developing and managing programs with assets in excess of $100 million for a large and varied clientele base.
"I sit on the board of the OandC Counties and the board of directors of the Association of Oregon Counties," Waddle said.
He said Curry County is not alone in its fiscal problems, but many other counties and the state of Oregon, as well, have similar problems.
"You have to have the leadership necessary to meet these challenges," Waddle said.
John Herzog of Brookings says he believes he can help with the solutions for Curry County if he is elected to the Board of Commissioners.
"The biggest issues are finances for sure and how to finance our county, how we're going to generate revenue," Herzog said.
"I will just work tirelessly if I get elected. I've got some ideas but, until you get in there, how do you know if they're going to work," he said.
Herzog has worked for UPS for 30 years and is a member of the Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative board of directors.Continued from Page 1A
He says he has not been able to campaign as widely as he would have liked.
"I'm a little bit different in the fact I have a UPS job I work at least 10 hours a day. They're paying me to deliver their packages. I can't campaign a lot when I'm on route," he said. "Other than that the campaign has been going real good."
He said he missed some forums because of family issues.
"I'm hoping 45 years in Curry County, my reputation will proceed itself," he said. "The people who know me will understand what's going on. If elected, I'll weigh the facts and make decisions the best for Curry County. That's me in a nutshell."
Herzog said he thinks the 19 recommendations the Citizens' Committee gave the commissioners on Feb. 1 are all good.
"I think they've been out there for decades," he said. "We know we need to raise taxes. We've got to do something to generate revenue. I'm not worried about four years from January getting re-elected. Just get it fixed and move on. I'm not a career politician."
Herzog said he grew up in Curry County.
"I moved here when I was 10 years old. I've lived in Curry County 45 years. I'm not willing to see it go to Josephine County or Coos County, not on my watch," he said.
"I was on the Brookings city Planning Commission years ago. I have a strong faith in God and our county that we can pull this out. I think my record, 29 Christmases with UPS, nothing gets harder than that."
Herzog said he graduated from Brookings-Harbor High School in 1975 and worked for South Coast Lumber until 1982, when he went to work driving a delivery truck for UPS.
"If I get elected, I will retire in November and take office in January," he said.
"I'm not the politician type. I go to these forums. The other people running, there's nothing wrong with them.
They're a different breed. I don't pat myself on the back. I'm a doer, not a talker," he said.
"I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep," Herzog said.