With an Aug. 28 deadline looming, only five people have turned in all the paperwork needed to qualify for a run at a Medford City Council seat this November.
To gather enough registered voter signatures and to get them verified by the Jackson County clerk, candidates will need to get most of the paperwork done well before the deadline, City Recorder Karen Spoonts said.
“I think the 24th is pushing it,” she said. “All the signatures need to be counted and returned to the city recorder’s office.”
Each candidate is required to gather 25 signatures, but Spoonts recommends gathering an extra 10 in case some aren’t registered voters.
To date, 14 Medford residents have taken out the paperwork to run in the four wards in the city. A nonpartisan councilor position is unpaid and can require 20 hours or more of time in a given week.
Steve Dickson, a city Budget Committee member, is the only person to file for the seat from Ward 1 in northeast Medford. Incumbent Tim Jackle is not running for re-election.
In Ward 2, incumbent Clay Bearnson has said he’s running but hasn’t turned in the paperwork. Jim Herndon, with a background in police and the military, is the only official candidate so far.
Ward 4 in southeast Medford has no official candidate so far, though incumbent Mike Zarosinski has said he plans to run again, and one other resident has taken out the paperwork but hasn’t turned it in yet.
So far, the most contested race is for Ward 3 in northwest Medford. Incumbent Kevin Stine is being challenged by Glenda Wilson, former city recorder, and Don Libby, a security guard who was arrested but not convicted of impersonating a police officer in 2013.
Stine, who has worked with veterans at both ACCESS and now for Rogue Community College, said, “I have a record to run on that I’m pleased about.”
Stine said he thinks it is important that a councilor make sure residents understand why he takes a stand on issues, so he routinely does interviews with the local media to get the word out.
“I just think people in public office should do more than show up and vote,” he said.
Stine said some of the causes he’s championed include a program to get rid of problem properties, or zombie houses, helping bring Uber and Lyft to the city, finding a city manager, building new police and fire stations and generally giving more visibility to the accomplishments of Medford.
He has been the chair of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, which is beginning a project to rehabilitate a poor neighborhood in Stine’s ward, and helped with the opening of Hope Village, a homeless tiny house project also in his ward.
Wilson, one of Stine’s challengers, said her decision to run has nothing to do with Stine’s performance in office.
“Everything going on across the country in the last couple of years has inspired me to take on this role,” she said. “The division, the separation, the nastiness — we need to bring people together.”
Homelessness and affordable housing are two issues that resonate with local residents, said Wilson, 56, a former city recorder who works at Addictions Recovery Center. She said they are the most frequently discussed issues when she goes door to door in her ward.
If elected, she said, she will spend considerable time working on the issues that concern her constituents. “This campaign is not about what I think needs to be changed,” she said.
She said she has an ability to work through issues to develop a compromise to resolve some of the bigger problems facing the city.
Libby declined to be interviewed by the Mail Tribune if it brought up his 2013 arrest.
“In my opinion, that is irrelevant, dead in the water,” he said.
In Ward 1, Dickson, who works in human resources for the Veterans Administration and is on various city committees including the Budget Committee, said he wants to focus on affordable housing and economic growth.
“We need to look at housing,” he said. “How can we build and expand it to allow for our children to live here.”
He hopes to make the city more industry-friendly to create jobs for local residents.
“A lot of our college graduates are getting out of here and not working in their fields,” said Dickson, 39.
He said his primary reason for running is to serve the people of Medford.
“The community has given me so much, and I want to give back,” he said.
Ward 2 candidate Herndon, retired from careers in police and the military, said he’s served his country and now wants to serve the residents of Medford.
“I feel I offer a little something more than Clay,” said Herndon, 72. “I have absolutely nothing against Clay.”
Like Bearnson, Herndon is concerned about homelessness.
“But I think some of them just want to be homeless,” he said.
Herndon said he supports a 750-bed jail so that police can take homeless people who violate the law into custody.
Those who need psychological help should get the help they need when they’re brought into jail, he said, while others should do community service if they’ve committed a crime.
“The ones on drugs, I have absolutely no idea,” he said. “Until they make the conscious choice that they need help, there is nothing we can do.”
Herndon said Medford needs to invest more in infrastructure, expanding service roads, sidewalks and connecting houses that aren’t currently served. He said his own house has city sewer but no Medford Water Commission hookup.
Public safety, including more proactive crime patrols, are one of his concerns. “We could use 10 more police officers,” he said.