Editor’s note: County Commissioner Jim Hamsher is running against County Judge Scott Myers for the county judge seat. If either candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the May primary, as is likely, that person will win the election outright, and the position will not appear on the ballot in November.
Grant County judge candidate Jim Hamsher, 52, Prairie City, was born and raised in the Prairie City area. After graduating from Prairie City High School, he worked in ranching, at local sawmills, as a fuel truck driver and for a helicopter company with Forest Service contracts.
Hamsher is in his first term as Grant County commissioner. He also served one term as a Prairie City councilor and is in his third term as Prairie City mayor.
The need for more jobs is a main issue facing the county, he said, but he also cited unfunded mandates and too many regulations coming from state and federal government. Many state laws negatively impact rural Eastern Oregon, he said, but the eastern counties get “out-voted” in Salem.
“We need to get more involved in the legislature,” Hamsher said. “We need more voice in the legislature. It’s the only chance we’ll have.”
Hamsher is concerned the county court did not perform its due diligence when it joined the Grant County Digital Network Coalition to bring broadband to the county. He wanted to see more cost estimates and a market analysis conducted ahead of time.
He is particularly concerned that the county, John Day and Seneca each have one vote on the coalition board, but the county is responsible for 60 percent of the network’s operating costs.
“It needed more discussion,” he said.
Hamsher said the problem with outsourcing emergency dispatch to Frontier Regional 911 is that Grant County would not have a seat on the board. He was willing to look at keeping 911 dispatch local under a special district to avoid high payments to the state retirement system. He also was “optimistic” the 911 dispatch problem will be solved and that the 911 phone tax will be increased to support local dispatch.
Hamsher said he supports creation of a natural resource adviser position to research issues, communicate with state and federal agencies and advise the county court. He said it wouldn’t be hard to bring $50,000 in benefits to the county to offset the cost of the position, which he noted would be hourly, not salaried.
“The court could use the adviser as much as it wanted or needed,” he said. “There are lots of complex issues coming down the pike — water, fish, timber and grazing.”
Hamsher said he offers years of experience in government as a lifelong resident and “a good dose of common sense not seen elsewhere in government.” He also wants to mend the divide in Grant County.
“Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, we can all agree that we love this county,” Hamsher said. “If we can set aside our differences, we can solve our problems — I saw that immediately after the Canyon Creek Complex fire.”