The Jackson County Courthouse. Bob Penell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Seven candidates vie for one commissioner spot

Four Republicans and three Democrats are vying for Position No. 2 on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in the May 15 primary.

Winners from each party will then face off in the general election, set for Nov. 6. Whoever gets the most votes will replace C.W. Smith, who has served since 2005 and is not running again.

The new commissioner will start a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2013, with an annual salary of $93,308. Ballots for the May primary go out Friday.

Here are the candidates, listed first by party, then alphabetically. The Mail Tribune will run their answers to four questions — addressing proposed charter amendments, early jail releases, O&C funds and commissioners' salaries — in the coming week as space allows.


Doug Breidenthal

Breidenthal said he's running a campaign focused on conservative financial stewardship, local land-use control and restoring access to natural resource management.

"It's done through deregulation and downsizing of government," Breidenthal said. "There's a whole gamut of things that are put on top of our businesses that don't allow them to flourish."

The Medford resident is assistant operations chief for Kingsley Field Fire Department and deputy chief of emergency services for the Lakeside Fire District. He is the Jackson County Republican Party chairman and serves as chairman for the Madrone Trail Public Charter School board.

Breidenthal believes the current Board of Commissioners has done a good job of handling county finances. If elected, he said he hopes to work to make some changes within the Jackson County Planning Department.

"I'd like to see more of a can-do attitude than a can't-do attitude," he said. "That's one of my main goals."

Breidenthal moved to Jackson County from Long Beach, Calif., in 1989. He is married and has two children.

Kay Harrison

Harrison wants to see the local economy improve and hopes to be involved in that effort as county commissioner.

"We're watching our neighbor counties struggle," Harrison said. "We're in better shape because it was planned for a little bit differently."

Harrison added the county should be able to use the surrounding forestlands in the local tax base instead of being dependent on the federal government.

Harrison moved to the area in 1977 from Walnut Creek, Calif. She works at Harry & David as a sales division consultant.

She has been a Central Point City Council member for the past 11 years and served on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board for eight years.

"I understand some of the problems that are going on because of my involvement," Harrison said. "I wanted to just go up another level. I think I bring a really good background."

She believes the commissioners engage with the community on many issues but fell short when they asked voters to make the county assessor, surveyor and clerk appointed positions.

Joel Ockunzzi

Ockunzzi said he would like to reinvigorate the area with family-wage jobs through natural resource management and high-tech entrepreneurs.

"I think we need the opportunity for more economic expansion in the area," Ockunzzi said, adding the time to expand is critical because of the decline in federal O&C funds. "There's not an individual who's had more experience in the land-use side. I haven't just been rehearsed in those things. I've been immersed in those things."

Ockunzzi has lived in Jackson County since 1980. He raised three children here and works as a real estate broker with Oregon Opportunities Real Estate. The White City resident also has served on the Committee for Citizen Involvement and has been part of the county Planning Commission for the last four years.

He'd been asked by acquaintances to consider running and decided the timing was right this year, he said.

Economic development and public safety are at the top of Ockunzzi's list of campaign issues. He believes the current board has been doing a good job overall.

Colleen Roberts

Roberts said she would focus on three things if elected: financial responsibility, government accountability, and remembering the U.S. Constitution when considering new policies.

"I think everything needs to be in that framework," Roberts said. "I think all citizens need to do that."

Roberts has criticized the salaries of the Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Danny Jordan, saying the amounts should be adjusted.

"If we had a healthy economy, I could see it, but we don't have a healthy economy. The government needs to reflect that," Roberts said.

Roberts also thinks the rules regarding citizen comments at public meetings should change. Currently, the board does not have to respond to comments made by citizens.

"Elected officials should be responsible to conversing with the citizens," Roberts said. "That is very important, in my opinion."

The owner of Sensational Sweets in Eagle Point, Roberts has three children and will have 10 grandchildren by the primary's end. She lives in Prospect.


John Beatty

John Beatty wants to advocate for health and human services funding in the county. The son of a Department of Veterans Affairs social worker, Beatty said it's important to keep as many programs going as possible, especially concerning mental health.

"That always seems like it's an easy place to make cuts," Beatty said, referring to the county's recent decision to terminate its control of the Hazel Center, a 16-bed mental health facility in north Medford. "They don't really have many advocates."

He said he appreciates the work the Board of Commissioners has put into adding transparency to meetings — such as Commissioner Don Skundrick's town hall meetings — but would like to see more, perhaps by changing the time and place of public meetings to make them more accessible.

"We're missing a sizeable portion of the community that wants to have their voice heard," Beatty said.

Beatty works as an information technology support specialist for the county. He has lived in Jackson County since 1980, is married and has five children. He lives in Central Point.

Jeff Scroggin

Jeff Scroggin served in the U.S. Army for five years and is a 2008 University of Oregon graduate. He moved to the Rogue Valley as soon as he graduated and has been working as chief of staff for Sen. Alan Bates since 2010. He also worked for Gov. John Kitzhaber during his election campaign.

Scroggin said some community members had approached him about running. He said he would strive to implement what he calls practical policies, such as investing county dollars through Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. in infrastructure upgrades and providing Internet service to more rural areas.

"That kind of infrastructure is going to be good for business and quality of life," Scroggin said, adding he thinks the small investments would result in big returns.

He believes the current commissioners have been doing a good job overall.

"That said, I wouldn't be running if I didn't think there was room for improvement," Scroggin said, adding he'd like to see more transparency by possibly changing the board's public meeting times to better accommodate attendees' schedules.

Mark Soderstrom

Soderstrom believes the county can save millions of dollars in health care costs by building a primary care clinic staffed by nurse practitioners that charged $30 a visit. He hopes such a move can draw away traffic from more-expensive emergency rooms.

"Even if I don't win this election, I really hope we do get this clinic done," the Phoenix resident said.

Soderstrom moved to Jackson County when he was 12 years old. He has worked as a policy writing supervisor and was the previous owner of the Insurance Marketplace. He also has served on the Medford Planning Commission and as president of Independent Insurance Agents of Jackson County.

Soderstrom believes the county should also be taking advantage of a state pilot solar power program. Under the program, solar panels would be built in the county to be self-sufficient with local power generation.

Soderstrom said he believes the current board has been fiscally responsible and is glad it has made public safety a priority.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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