Jeff Golden, left, and Don Skundrick

Golden/Skundrick race: Business is priority

Dominating the debate for the Jackson County commissioner race between Jeff Golden and Don Skundrick is a local economy stuck in the doldrums.

Neither Golden, an Ashland Democrat, nor Skundrick, a Medford Republican, sees any magic solution for the problem, although both think commissioners can set the tone for a more business-friendly county.

"I am an unvarnished champion of the buy-local movement," Golden said.

"It's all about jobs," Skundrick said.

Golden and Skundrick are seeking the commissioner seat now held by Jack Walker, who lost in the primary race. Voters will decide the race during the Nov. 2 election.

Both candidates are heavily involved in the community.

Skundrick has spent 44 years working with LTM, now known as Knife River Materials. He has been heavily involved in local groups such as the Medford Chamber and Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.

Golden has been a writer, radio talk-show host, co-founded a small construction company and has been involved in other businesses. He was county commissioner in the 1980s and has served on various local boards.

Skundrick said government's role is to create an atmosphere that is conducive to job growth, while ultimately realizing that it is the private sector that actually creates the jobs.

The county can work with SOREDI and local chambers of commerce to help attract businesses, he said. As former executive of Knife River Materials, Skundrick said he has the chops to work with businesses interested in moving to the valley.

At the same time, he said, improving the local economy will improve the local tax base.

"My whole premise is to build our economy," he said.

While Skundrick would like to streamline government processes, he said he doesn't advocate unfettered deregulation.

Golden said the county should be a partner in creating the right conditions for businesses to grow.

While big-box stores provide some local job growth, Golden said a lot of the money made in these stores goes out of town. He would prefer to encourage more locally owned businesses to keep dollars in the community.

Golden wants the county to use more local contractors for services as a way to keep the dollars in Jackson County.

Seven sectors of the local economy are poised for growth, and Golden predicts they could add more than 4,000 jobs in the next five years. Energy conservation could see the largest share of growth, adding 1,177 new jobs, he said.

The commissioner's seat is now a partisan position, but both Golden and Skundrick would like to leave politics out of it.

Golden said, "Partisanship in the office is just distracting."

Skundrick said the race already costs more money than he thinks is necessary, and he would prefer to make the commissioner position nonpartisan.

Skundrick has collected $72,000 for his campaign so far, spending almost $60,000. Some of his largest contributors include the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors Inc. at $5,000 and Knife River Materials at $3,250.

Golden has received almost $70,000 and has spent more than $39,000. His biggest cash contribution is $4,000 from Ashland resident Wendy Seldon, followed by Jane Whaley, development director of Food & Friends for Jackson and Josephine counties, at $1,500.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or e-mail

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