What a difference an election cycle makes.
In 2016, six Democrats duked it out in the primary for the lone available seat on the Benton County Board of Commissioners while the GOP didn’t field a single candidate.
This time around, with the other two seats on the board up for election, two Democrats and two Republicans will be running unopposed for their parties’ nomination in the May 19 primary.
Position 2 incumbent Xan Augerot, the 59-year-old former executive director of the Marys River Watershed Council who was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2016, is running in the Democratic primary as she seeks a second four-year term. She lives in Corvallis.
Seeking the GOP nomination for the Position 2 seat is North Albany resident Tom Cordier. Cordier, 80, is a retired ATI-Wah Chang executive who has been active in Albany politics, developing a reputation as an ardent budget hawk. He is seeking his first elected office.
The Position 3 seat is up for grabs after five-term incumbent Annabelle Jaramillo announced she would not seek re-election.
Nancy Wyse, who finished second to eventual general election winner Pat Malone in the six-way Democratic primary for Position 1 in 2018, is the party’s sole entrant in this year’s primary for Position 3. The 36-year-old administrative analyst for Grijalva Distribution is in her second term representing Ward 6 on the Corvallis City Council and serves on a number of local boards, including the Benton County Planning Commission and Budget Committee.
John E. Sarna, 70, a retired engineer and Army veteran who lives in Philomath, is running for the Republican nomination in the Position 3 race. While he has not held elected office before, he served one term on the Benton County Environmental Issues Advisory Committee.
Augerot lists responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as the overriding issue in the election. If elected to a second term, she says she would also work on transitioning people without homes into stable housing and continue to work on implementing plans for improving the county’s criminal justice system, including a new justice center comprising a jail, courthouse and law enforcement offices.
Cordier puts cost containment at the center of his platform, saying he would push back against “special interest” projects, work on a cost-effective solution to the county jail’s shortcomings and advocate for a coordinated approach to homelessness, mental health problems and drug addiction that involves the courts.
Wyse says leading the economic recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus would be her first order of business if elected. Her other top priorities would be improved public records access and government transparency, implementing the criminal justice system improvement plan and improving the county’s emergency preparedness.
Sarna sees a need to alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and promote economic recovery. He also wants to improve the county’s disaster preparedness and mitigation planning, bridge the urban-rural divide in county politics and move ahead with cost-effective improvements to the criminal justice system.
The commissioners oversee a county government with about 500 employees and an annual budget of around $155 million. First-term commissioners make $87,810 a year in salary.
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