Prairie City has a competitive race for the city council this year, with six candidates vying for three seats with four-year terms.
Incumbent Les Church and challengers Chantal DesJardin, Eddy Hicks, Chase McClung, Scott Officer and Tisha Packard are running for the three positions.
Les Church is the only incumbent. He was appointed and has been re-elected twice. He grew up in the Bend and Redmond area and moved to Grant County in 1989.
Church said he left high school early to go to college, and he had a real estate license by the time he was 18 years old. He’s been a building contractor since he moved to Grant County.
Church sees his role on the council as a vital one. He said he helps guide decision making and makes sure all the councilors are on the same page. He said he’s gotten used to that role and said he has contributed to the smooth function of the council.
As a builder, Church said he’s familiar with the city’s infrastructure. He said he’s seen much of it and even worked on some of it. The issues facing Prairie City are not new, he said — replace pesky old parts with new ones and stay ahead of the game.
He said he was excited about the Fainman Springs project that could address the city’s water shortages. Ensuring a good water supply and smart financing for the project are top priorities for him, Church said.
Eddy Hicks grew up in Prairie City. He’s been a volunteer firefighter in Prairie City for 15 years, including six years as captain, he said.
Hicks was elected president of the FFA chapter at Prairie City High School, where he participated in parliamentary policy debate and learned how to run meetings.
After graduating, he worked on Forest Service riparian fencing projects, followed by three years at the Malheur Lumber Co. mill and then a season for a ranch near Kimberly. In October 2014, he bought a logging truck and started contracting with Iron Triangle.
Hicks said he’s long wanted to serve on the city council and sees a need for younger councilors that recognize the needs of children like his own.
The biggest issue facing Prairie City is addressing water shortages that have hampered the city for as long as he can remember, Hicks said.
Hicks said he wants to see positive change in the community. People have been divided for so long, which is almost always going to happen, but the city needs to take pieces from each side and put them together to make something that works, he said.
Chase McClung grew up in Eastern Oregon and moved to Prairie City, where he graduated from high school. He studied forestry for a year in college and worked four years as a wildland firefighter. He now drives for United Parcel Service.
McClung said he decided to run after hearing a lot of people complain instead of being part of the solution. He wants to see the local economy grow and new homes built to address the local housing shortage. Some roads need fixing, he noted, but he wasn’t sure if the city budget would accommodate that work. He also wanted to see the water shortage addressed.
This would be his first elected position, McClung said. He didn’t plan on an organized campaign with signs but would rely on word of mouth.
Scott Officer grew up in Grant County and is a fifth-generation Eastern Oregonian. He graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in natural resource management and works in timber management for the Malheur National Forest.
Officer said he’s reached a point in his life where he feels a need to contribute to his community. He said he doesn’t want to just sit on the sidelines, but he has no agenda and likes to look at issues from both sides.
This would not be his first elected position if he wins. Officer served on the student council in high school and on the student council at OSU’s College of Agricultural Science.
Tisha Packard has lived in Prairie City about 24 years. She took legal secretarial training at ITT Technical Institute and has worked as a special education assistant at Prairie City School for the past 15 years.
Packard said she decided to run because she wants to help her community and be more active. She said she has no specific ideas to promote, but the recent water shortage motivated her interest in running.
Packard said she hasn’t regularly attended Prairie City council meetings, but she has served as a union president for the classified employees union at Prairie City School. She’s also on the support staff for the Prairie City Fire Department and is an emergency medical responder for Blue Mountain Hospital District.
Chantal DesJardin, who grew up in Grant County and is a secretary/cashier at John Day City Hall, declined to be interviewed.