Democrat Stephanie Newton hopes to unseat Republican incumbent John Lindsey on the Linn County Board of Commissioners in the November election.
Her path to the boardroom was going to include a primary election contest with fellow Democrat Larry Johnson, but Johnson has withdrawn from the race due to health concerns. However, his name will remain on the ballots.
“Because of numerous back procedures and current unresolved health issues, I am withdrawing my candidacy for Linn County Commissioner, Position 1,” Johnson said in a note to the Democrat-Herald. “I will give my support to Democratic candidate Stephanie Newton and wish her luck. I want to thank everyone for their support.”
Newton was sorry Johnson had to withdraw.
“I took him some homemade blueberry muffins,” she said. “I was heartbroken to hear about his health issues. Larry is passionate about Linn County and wants to make a difference. I wish him well and he has offered to help me with my campaign.”
Newton said people who would like to know more about her campaign can attend a coffee meet-and-greet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Little Wuesten Cafe, 115 SW Ellsworth St., Albany.
Newton said she was asked to run for office, and she believes the board could use a voice from a millennial, Democrat and woman. It's been heavily Republican and male-only for many years.
Newton and her family moved to Albany more than a year ago from Corvallis and she said they fell in love with the town and Linn County immediately.
“I love the local farmers markets and how everyone comes together at them,” she said.
Newton would like to see the Board of Commissioners be “more transparent.” That would include posting past meeting agendas and minutes online. She also believes audio recordings of each meeting should be made available online, as well.
Newton is currently juggling a full-time job, being a wife and mother and campaigning. But if elected in November, she'll become a full-time commissioner.
She's enjoyed visiting Linn County’s rural communities and said key issues include the rising cost of housing, homelessness and the use of pesticides by area farmers. People are also concerned about the increasing number of commercial marijuana operations starting up locally.
“I don’t use marijuana, but it is legal and we have to deal with the issue,” Newton said. “My grandfather raised pigs, and they smell. Commercial marijuana operations also smell, so I believe the county should develop some buffer zones around communities so they don’t have to deal with the skunky smell associated with marijuana production.”
Reared in southern California, Newton admits she doesn’t come from a timber-oriented background, but she's studying up.
“I’ve read about 750 pages so far and it’s very interesting,” Newton said.
She would support timber plans that focus on harvesting to improve forest health. She's also impressed with the Siuslaw National Forest's timber management system.
As a marketing consultant, Newton said she strongly supports small business and believes diversifying rural jobs in Linn County and Oregon in general is important.
“I like to encourage people to become entrepreneurs and match the current skill sets of Linn County residents with the needs of businesses that might want to locate here,” she said.
Newton said Linn County’s relatively low health rating in the annual county health rankings is a concern.
“By getting good jobs in rural communities, those that pay a living wage and provide health care benefits, we can greatly improve the overall health of our county’s residents,” she said.
Newton does not believe Linn County should have initiated a $1.4 billion class action lawsuit against the state of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Forestry, or a lawsuit against the state focusing on unfunded mandates.
She believes both will cost the county money that could be better used elsewhere and said solutions could have been found in other more cooperative ways.