Residents step up in smaller communities

If not for willing citizens who agreed to accept a write-in nomination, a number of small towns would have near-vacant council chambers on meeting nights.

Jackson County elections officials released updated numbers this week from the recent election, with plans to finalize ballot counts by today. Those elected by write-in are asked to notify the county clerk's office by Dec. 19 as to whether they will accept the positions.

Smaller towns, from Gold Hill to Butte Falls, had at least a few positions in the recent election without candidates.

Jackson County elections deputy Donna Connor surmised that recent changes to ethics reporting laws may have deterred would-be candidates and the sluggish economy had resulted in fewer willing souls.

"I won't say it's common to have a lot of write-ins, but it is more likely in tiny communities," Connor said.

In Phoenix, eight-year resident and retired educator Diana Nelson said she thought an appearance at a candidate forum, which she'd attended to review her choices as a responsible voter, led to her nomination for the council.

The city had three vacancies but only two candidates for the trio of seats.

"I tend to be someone who researches things and asks lots of questions, so I guess that drew some attention," Nelson, 63, said of her unplanned write-in election.

Butte Falls had three available council seats with no candidate on the ballot. Four votes awarded a position to long-time resident and incumbent Roger Hayden.

Hayden, appointed to the seat recently to fill a vacancy by resignation, said he had decided to serve a full term for the small town. Hayden said volunteering for the position, or any for that matter, is part of life in a small town.

"It keeps me in tune with what's happening in the town and I don't mind helping out," the 62-year-old said, noting the primary focus for the coming term would be to update the town's ailing sewer system and continue planning for a water-bottling plant.

Hayden won in a landslide compared with Doug Ownlay, who received two votes to finish ahead of seven other write-ins, who received one each. The third contest ended in a 2-2 tie between residents David Curphey and Donna Ownlay. Attempts to contact any of the trio were unsuccessful.

At the other end of the valley, former Rogue River Press editor Dave Ehrhardt will remain in a seat to which he recently was appointed.

In Gold Hill, nearly the entire council will be filled by write-ins.

Interim Mayor Gus Wolf received the most votes for that position, with 29 votes, but has said he will not accept the seat. Planning Commission member Gene Atkinson, who finished second with 10 votes, said he would take the mayor's post. But city recorder Mary Goddard said the city would not automatically appoint the runner-up and that the City Council would have the final say in appointing vacant positions.

The most write-in votes for council positions went to Councilman Mike Ely, Christine Alford and Judi Holdeman. Holdeman and Alford said they would accept positions on the council, but Ely said he would not remain in office.

Connor said individual cities would determine how to deal with tie-breakers, though methods vary from one municipality to the next.

Buffy Pollock is a writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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