The Eagle sent each candidate in a contested local race an election questionnaire.
The questionnaires were mailed the same day to the mailing address the candidates listed when filing to run for office.
The candidates were instructed no late submissions would be accepted.
The following are the unedited responses received by deadline by position in alphabetical order.
Grant County Sheriff
Todd McKinley, Mt. Vernon
The position I am running for is the Office of Sheriff. The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer within the county with much responsibility. A Sheriff is responsible for a diverse range of criminal investigation, search and rescue, legal process, and daily jail operations.
I am running for the position of Sheriff, as I believe, and have for some time, there needs to be a change. The people of this great County need a Sheriff that will look out for all, one that is going to honor the Sheriff’s code of Ethics.
I have been a Grant County resident since 1977. I lived and worked on our family ranch until the mid-1990s, raising cattle and hay until I started logging for Charlie O’Rourke. I worked there and at Prairie Wood in the truck shop until I was hired as the School Resource Officer for Grant County in 2001. I served under Sheriff Reusser as a Reserve Deputy for a time and then for Sheriff Palmer after Sheriff Reusser’s passing. After serving as the School Resource Officer under the COPS Grant, I worked as a Patrol Deputy until 2008, then I was promoted to Undersheriff upon the retirement of Undersheriff McNellis. I served the citizens of Grant County in the capacity of Undersheriff until December of 2015 when I was hired as the Director of the Juvenile Department and Community Corrections, becoming a certified Parole Officer. During my time working for the Sheriff’s Office, I performed all manner of investigations, and headed up the Search and Rescue team. I have also served as a volunteer firefighter for over thirty years. All of this experience has given me a very well rounded outlook on expectations for the service to the people of Grant County.
Grant County is a very unique county. We take pride in our way of life, and care for our surroundings in a very respectful manner. If elected Sheriff, I would like to bring some pride back into the Sheriff’s Office. I want to see the staff be cared for and respected as much as our surroundings. They are the backbone of the criminal justice system in the county, and should be treated as a valuable resource. There has been much written and said about the state of affairs in the agency, and I want to change that. I also would like to see more attention placed on the drug problems in this county. As Director of Parole and Probation, I have had a first-hand glimpse at the depth of this epidemic and the destruction it causes to lives. This problem does not just touch the lives in the throes of despair, but the families and the victims of the users’ crimes and the tax payer at large. I also would like to see some separation between the County Court and the Sheriff’s Office. I think the current deputy/commissioner arrangement is unhealthy and I would bring an end to that.
Glenn Palmer, John Day, did not respond.
John Day City Council, three vacancies
After the questionnaires were sent, Richie Colbeth, John Day, informed the Eagle he was running a write-in campaign.
David Holland, John Day, did not respond.
Chris Labhart, John Day
1. City Councilor for the City of John Day. The city council sets policy and establishes short term and long-term goals for the city. Works with staff, department heads and employees to carry out policy and goals.
2. I want to see infrastructure throughout the city continue to be improved. Many of our streets need repair. We need to finish projects before we start new ones. We have to work together to accomplish goals. I believe I bring balanced experience to the position of city councilor.
3. I was raised in John Day and understand the culture of our rural community. I am a retired educator, coach and mentor. I have held elected and appointed positions in local, county and statewide offices. I have experience in budgeting, goal setting and collective bargaining from both management and union sides. I have worked with and continue to work with youth, adults and seniors in a variety of volunteer organizations. I have worked with elected leaders in all levels of government and have networked to complete many projects in the local area. I brought Air Life of Oregon into Grant County and worked with the City, County, Blue Mountain Hospital and the Forest Service to construct a helipad next to the hospital. I am currently President of the John Day Senior Center and under my leadership, we have undertaken and completed many projects. We recently purchased land from Elks Lodge 1824 for the center and have almost finished some major remodel projects inside the center. I was involved with the 3rd Street extension project. All of these projects were undertaken and completed under my watch.
4. I believe the City of John Day needs to continue working on maintaining and improving our infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, utilities). The City must continue working in collaboration with Parks and Rec, The Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer organizations, Grant County Court, health care community, schools and our business community. We have abandoned houses throughout the City and need to use our ordinances to deal with this problem. I support the selling of the swimming pool property to Kam Wah Chung & Co (the State of Oregon) for a new visitor’s center. We need to continue working on beautification projects throughout the city. Signage and landscaping are projects that need looked at. I would encourage the City to work with Hope 4 Paws to deal with pet concerns.
Heather Rookstool, John Day
1. My name is Heather Rookstool. I’m running for John Day’s City Council. It is important to me that the members of the counsel come from diverse backgrounds with the important job they have to do. I feel as a citizen of John Day it is our responsibility to be involved.
2. I’m running for City Council because: As a mother and small business manager I can bring fresh ideas in the hopes of building this town to benefit our youth and small businesses which are vital to the future of our city.
3. My background: I moved to John Day at the age of 15 in 2000 and graduated from Grant Union in 2003. I married my high school sweetheart, Zane, in 2007 and moved back to John Day with our two children, Zeke (now 12) and Zoey (now 10). I’m currently the Grant County Coordinator for MFMC which is a comprehensive sexual health curriculum taught in 6th-8th grade schools in Grant County. I’m also the Manager of Java Jungle and love having a Downtown small business for travelers as well as locals to stop in and get a yummy coffee. It also provides me with the opportunity to feel the pulse of the community. Some of my qualifications for this position are that I have served or am currently on the following boards; Fair Board Vice President, Grant County little league 2 years of VP of softball and baseball and currently the Player Agent, John Day swim team Fundraiser Rep, Grant Co wrestling club Fundraiser Rep.
4. Some of my reasoning for running for the city council are as follows; 1st I would like to help and support our local small businesses in John day, I believe if our council and city management did more of this the citizens would follow. I believe our city officials should be checking in and talking to our small businesses and seeing what they need and how it is going, with our small businesses we don’t have a city and I don’t want to see any more empty building in John Day.
2nd thing I think we can do as a city council is to make sure we are “living within our community needs and budget” I think there is some great ideas happening but I don’t know that our budget supports those ideas and I’m ok with not being a “Yes” woman!
3rd I want to find a way to have a Pool for our community. I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to look into options and hear ideas. I feel this is an important asset to our county!
Elliott Sky, John Day
1. Public leadership needs all types of people from the community to participate in and provide direction for our local government. The city council determines where and how to invest time and resources, prioritizing and providing oversight to activities and pursuits that will impact the community for years to come.
2. I am running for John Day city council to give my time and energy to help direct the city’s vision. I want this community to be the place that I raise a family in and want to be involved in the process of making it that place.
3. I moved to this valley to begin work at BMHD as a physical therapist in 2017. I moved here with my wife and we had our first child in March of this year. In the first months that we arrived I started attending the John Day city council to learn more about the city’s projects and soon started lending my expertise to community committees. I was appointed to the city council last year when the current councilors saw my dedication and interest in city government.
As a physical therapist, communication with my patients and collaboration with their health care providers is essential in my patient’s care. These skills will translate well into local government both as a consensus builder and a representative of the people in the community. As your city councilor, I would be a thoughtful and open-minded representative who will listen to your ideas and concerns with the intention of understanding your perspective and being your voice with the city.
4. My vision is for John Day to be a great place to raise a family. As a city councilor, I will support projects that create or maintain family wage jobs and create healthy activities and opportunities for kids in order to keep existing families here and attract new families.
Broadband is essential for the sustainability and growth of our community, in part because it is vital to K-12 and post-secondary education. As more jobs are going remote we have the opportunity to attract new people and employment options.
As a small community it is important that we support each other and look for opportunities to work together. Resources are spread thin and development and growth in one community in Grant County benefits the whole. John Day has initiated some great projects but hasn’t always been able to effectively collaborate with community partners. I will help facilitate the collaboration that John Day needs to garner public engagement, unify efforts, and gain efficiencies.
Canyon City City Council, two vacancies
Russ Comer, Canyon City
1. I am applying for the position of City Councilor for the town of Canyon City. This position provides a conduit between the city government and the community members. As a representative for my community, I feel it is important to have diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.
2. I am running for this position to continue to serve the community and bring a progressive perspective to the council. If elected this will be my second term served with The Town of Canyon City.
3. I have a background in public health with an emphasis on community partnership and policy development. For 7 years I was the director of the Grant County Safe Communities Coalition. Currently, I am employed part-time with public health. I am also a local business owner. In addition, I serve as a member of the board for Families First Parent Resource Center, an appointed member of the Local Community Advisory Council to the Coordinated Care Organizations, and a board member for Eastern Oregon Trails Alliance. My goal for this position is to increase what Canyon City has to offer its citizens as well as create an attractive environment for people to want to stay and raise families.
4. In this position I would like to foster an environment where the public feels comfortable having a voice on topics related to the city agenda. I would also like to continue to be available to community members as a voice for them at the table when they cannot be present to represent themselves. I appreciate the opportunity to represent the Town of Canyon City.
Rachelle Simmons, Canyon City
I am seeking reelection to the position of city councilor representing the Town of Canon City. I believe that serving the people of Canyon City as a council member is important as it allows me the insight to inter-workings of our community and resolving concerns of our citizens.
I am running for this position to continue helping with current issues in our city. My background and qualifications are in making decisions in budget planning, economic developments and ongoing infrastructure projects. I have worked under three different mayors while serving the residents of Canyon City as well as various council members over multiple terms. During that time, we have continued to work on improving our cities water systems, bridges, and city streets. In addition to upgrading several pieces of equipment for the city’s workforce.
If given the opportunity, I look forward to continue working with our mayor, council members and representing the residents of the community as well as partnering local city governments.
Lisa Weigum, Canyon City
1. I am running for City Council in Canyon City. Local government is important for many reasons but I feel one of the biggest reasons is because people need to have access and opportunity to talk directly to their elected officials who have the most impact on their everyday lives.
2. I am running for this position because I want to be involved in and support my community. I was born and raised in Grant County; I can understand and appreciate the local perspective as well the perspective of those who have decided to make Canyon City their home.
3. Being born and raised in Grant County gives me a natural understanding and appreciation of our lifestyle and culture. I have experienced the hardship that comes with living in this community and I’ve felt the utter kindness and outpouring of love and support that you can only know if you lived here. After graduating Grant Union in 2003 (go Pros!), I received an undergrad degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economic with a concentration in Public Administration from Eastern Oregon University. I have extensive experience as a board member for several local nonprofit boards including CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), JD/CC Parks and Recreation, the Grant County Community Health Improvement Coalition, the Grant County Safe Communities Coalition and was a founding member of Hope4Paws: Grant County. My board experience has allowed me to build strong and meaningful relationships not only with my community but also with our local elected officials.
4. An effective city government means an engaged and approachable council with diverse and relevant experience, and most importantly, a willingness to listen to their constituents. Part of that effectiveness means new people on the council. As it is now, nearly every single City Councilor for the City of Canyon City has been in their seat for multiple 4-year terms. With change comes new ideas, thoughts, and perspective all of which are essential for the vitality of local governance and fair representation for the residents of Canyon City.
I would also like to address public access of city council meetings for residents of Canyon City. Unfortunately, COVID has changed business as we know it. City council meetings should be held in-person with a virtual option. This would not only allow constituents to have the opportunity to be informed and involved but would also ensure transparency of the Council and accountability of their decision-making process. This could be accomplished by working in partnership with other local agencies and organizations, such as our Economic Development office. Collaboration and partnership are valuable strategies that should be often utilized in local government.
Mt. Vernon City Council, two vacancies
Judi Bennett, Mt. Vernon, did not respond.
Mike Cearns, Mt. Vernon
The importance of city council is to see that the residence of Mt. Vernon benefit from the decision made by the mayor and the city officials. The importance is to also hold everyone accountable for the decisions being made.
I have lived in Mt. Vernon almost 30 years and want to see this town as a good place and safe place to raise your family. I also want to continue to see good decisions being made for the good of the community and Grant County as a whole.
I have been on city council for the last 6 years. In my time on city council we have seen the city park be developed and improved. We also are in the process of many improvements on the sewer system. I serve on the Mt. Vernon Fire Department and have served for almost 30 years. I have knowledge on the sewer/water system as well as all the current policies and procedures.
Serving the residence of Mt. Vernon is a pleasure and I will continue to make sound and right decisions for the community.
Kelly Flanagan, Mt. Vernon, did not respond.
The questionnaire sent to the address listed by Lori Kerr, Mt. Vernon, was returned to sender.
Jan Lowry, Mt. Vernon
1. I am running for a position on the Mt. Vernon City Council.
2. I was on the city council once before and feel that I can do a good job again.
3. As for my background I worked for the City of Mt. Vernon for 17 1/2 years until I retired. So I pretty well know what goes on in daily city business. What is needed or what isn't. And as stated before I had a seat on the city council and feel I did right by the city and would like to do so again.
4. I don't have any certain issues that need to be addressed at this time. Just would like to do my civic duty and help where ever I can.
Lowry did not provide a photograph.
Candidates for Prairie City City Council and Long Creek City Council did not respond.