OLDS REFLECTS ON LONG CAREER

December 29, 2000 11:00 pm

I kept every promise I ever made, was how retiring Curry County Commissioner Lloyd Olds summed up his four years in office.

After 32 years of public service, Olds said. I didnt have my heart in it (running for reelection) this time.

He only ran because so many people in Gold Beach were afraid of their mayor, Marlyn Schafer, he said.

Because of that, he added, he won in the Gold Beach and Port Orford precincts. He said the Brookings voters were uninformed, but that it was up to them to be informed.

Voters deserve whoever they elect, he said, attributing the statement to Mark Twain.

On the other hand, he said, those who didnt vote for Schafer dont deserve her.

Maybe I let them down, he said. But I have a couple of grandkids to take fishing. I havent had time in my job. I was never a 9-to-5 commissioner, I was a 24-hour-a-day commissioner.

He said people saw him in McDonalds a lot because thats where hed spend the short amount of time he had between meetings and appointments. He didnt have time to go home.

Olds, however, thought what he accomplished in office was well worth the time invested.

He was proud of what the commissioners did with animal control after taking that function from the sheriffs office in July, 1999. The entire operation now needs only $15,000 a year out of the county general fund. He thanked The Pilot for publicizing dogs for adoption and for helping to make the program a success.

Hes worried that the new commissioners might be thinking about turning the shelter over to the South Coast Humane Society.

Its a mandatory program, he said. Volunteers cant do it. He said given the number of pets in the county, everyone should be involved with the shelter.

Olds said the formation of the Community Justice Department was another big success story, but one that bent the judges noses.

If they were as interested in justice as they are in controlling everything, he said. Theyd jump in and help.

Olds said the judges in Curry County wanted Community Corrections Director Grant Nelson put in charge of the new department, which merged with the Juvenile Department.

Ron Mathis, who was chosen for the job, was three times as qualified, he said.

Mathis makes people face what theyve done. Its called restorative justice. He teaches responsibility. Thats the whole goal, so juveniles dont become adult clients.

Olds said another success story was reorganizing the Human Services Department and its mental health division around Director Deb Wilson.

Its 40 times bigger now than it was, he said. Its working way better than four years ago.

Olds also said the Sheriffs Department budget was never cut during his four years in office. It has always been increased, even when Community Justice was cut.

Another misconception, said Olds, was that he and Commissioner Bill Roberts discussed county business at McDonalds and decided how theyd vote in public meetings.

Not once did we talk about how to vote, he said. If people wanted to talk to Bill about something wed vote on, Id move to another table.

McDonalds was more of a place to unwind, a place where people could shoot the bull.

He said County Counsel Jerry Herbage would discuss items individually with the three commissioners. Items would not be put on the meeting agenda if two commissioners objected.

Olds was also proud that he used common sense in his land-use decisions, though that didnt endear him to the big developers.

Of the other commissioners, Olds said Commissioner Cheryl Thorp has her own beliefs, and that some of her decisions were biased. He said her lack of governmental experience may have been the problem.

There was a lot I liked, he said of Thorp, But a lot I didnt.

He said Thorp could be too extreme on the environment for his tastes. I believe in common-sense environmentalism.

Olds also spent two years serving with former commissioner T.V. Skinner.

T.V.s beliefs were more in line with mine, he said, but added that Skinner, like Thorp, sometimes went into meetings already biased.

I tried not to, said Olds. As a judge, he said, he went in and listened to the cases as they were presented before making decisions.

He said the problem was that Skinner had so many friends in the area, and didnt always step down when there were conflicts of interest.

On the positive side, Olds said Skinner was a wealth of knowledge and fun to work with.

Olds served all four years with Roberts. He said they didnt know each other before they were elected, but quickly became friends, though not in a social sense.

He said he had dinner at Roberts home twice during those four years, and Roberts came to his house once.

At work, however, Olds gave Roberts equal credit or more for all their major accomplishments.

Olds said chief among those accomplishments was keeping the county budget in line.

He said the elected officials salaries were cut when he and Roberts first took office, and they kept those cuts in the budget all four years.

He expects the new commissioners to vote to raise their salaries from $37,500 a year, but hopes they dont go higher than $40,000.

The passage of Senate Bill 1608 should ease the countys budget crisis somewhat, he said.

Olds put about two years of work and lobbying into the bill, though it seemed like forever.

He said Thorp and former commissioner Peg Reagan wanted a provision in the bill to decouple federal payments to counties from timber receipts.

Every congressman and senator said if the bill was amended, it would die. And she (Thorp) urged the amendment.

He said even after Rep. Peter DeFazio compromised on the decoupling issue, he continued to receive letters from Thorp and Reagan.

Olds said he lobbied legislators who were on the fence by phone, fax and letters.

It was really neat, he said, We got a lot of answers back.

The Association of O & C Counties, the Association of Oregon Counties and the National Forest Schools Council showed they could all work together and get the goal accomplished, he said.

As for the future, Olds would like to reopen his opal mine this summer, but first wants to pay off the legal costs of a 1996 lawsuit over the mine that he won.

The mine is more of a dream than a get-rich thing, he said.

Olds said it is the experience of mining that he enjoys. He said Robert Service once wrote, Its not the gold that counts, its the finding it.

I guess Im a born prospector, said Olds. That same spirit of adventure took him from the military to commercial fishing to the court.

He said his future plans are to do whatever I find that might be interesting to do.