With five candidates in the race for the nonpartisan position of Jackson County clerk, it's likely the top two vote getters will get to face each other again in a November runoff. With that background, we're comfortable recommending either Karen Spoonts or Chris Walker for the job.
The nature of the county's charter asks voters to pick officials for a number of positions that are hardly political — clerk, surveyor and assessor immediately come to mind. That makes it a tough choice for the county's voters and this editorial board. Since those nonpartisan candidates will be elected in May only if they get a majority, we're going to weasel a bit and give you our top two choices for clerk.
The five candidates are:
- Cheryl Avgeris: A 16-year-employee and current supervisor in the clerk's office, Avgeris has worked in most of the office's departments, although less so on the elections side.
- Colleen Roberts: Roberts, who lives in Prospect, is the owner of a bakery in Eagle Point and is currently completing her master's in business administration. She says she entered the race because of her belief in citizen participation in government.
- Rick Schreffler: Schreffler did not return phone calls or meet with the editorial board and did not participate in a recent forum. He lists his occupation as business owner and has served on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board of directors.
- Karen Spoonts: Deputy city recorder for the city of Medford and a certified municipal clerk, Spoonts has worked for the city for more than a decade and previously worked for Medford Corporation for 12 years. She has been involved in many areas similar to the clerk's office, including record-keeping and contracts, municipal elections and working with the media and the public.
- Chris Walker: Appointed by the Board of Commissioners earlier this year to finish Kathy Beckett's term, Walker has been in the clerk's office for 13 years. She has worked her way up from an entry level position and along the way worked in elections and as the property tax appeals clerk, among others.
It was hard to find any difference of opinion among the four candidates we interviewed. They all agreed that increasing voter turnout was a priority and generally agreed that the clerk's office is well managed. They support vote by mail and believe the clerk should strictly follow public records laws.
So we chose Spoonts and Walker as the top two candidates based on a combination of experience and leadership qualities. Walker has an edge in experience with her 13 years in the office. But we think Spoonts' years in the city recorder's office provide ample experience to make the transition to the county position and it's clear that those who work with her now consider her very competent and a quick learner. In interviews with the candidates, Walker and Spoonts exhibited leadership qualities.
Walker's enthusiasm was almost over the top — on a couple of occasions she leaped in to answer questions before others could get a word in. But her energy and determination were unmistakable.
Spoonts showed a quieter leadership, but her calm and measured tones carried a sense of authenticity and assuredness.
We think the best outcome would be for Spoonts and Walker to advance to the November election so that voters could get to know them better.