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For county seat, it's legislator vs. mediator

Differences in perception between one-year incumbent, challenger


JAMIE DAMON TOOTIE SMITH

In the race for Position No. 4 on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, Tootie Smith of Molalla is challenging incumbent Jamie Damon of Eagle Creek.

Damon was appointed to the commission in June 2011, having served as a mediator for years before being tapped to the county panel.

Smith served in the state Legislature for four years, including as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. She operates a bed and breakfast in Molalla.

Smith says she would draw upon her experience as a legislator and her time as a small-business operator to understand and represent the views of Clackamas County residents.

“That requires making it easier for citizens to engage their elected officials,” Smith said, “and more importantly, it requires officials who will listen to their neighbors and act accordingly.”

Damon says she was appointed to bring an east-county, rural perspective to the board. She also has promoted and achieved having quarterly town halls and evening business meetings to give residents greater access to the commission. She also said her skills at bringing consensus have proven valuable to the board.

“I brought (to the board),” she said, “a mediator’s perspective of valuing all sides of an issue and seeking a path forward.”

Smith says government should be of, by and for the people, and that has been lost on the current commission.

She would change the county’s priorities and build more roads that would encourage new businesses to develop and bring the county more jobs. Smith calls herself the “shovel-ready candidate.”

Damon says her record speaks for itself. Among her accomplishments, she points to her support of the harvest of county-owned land, the withdrawal of Boring from TriMet, passage of the public service levy and full funding for the sheriff’s department, funding for grants to assist senior centers as well as school-based health centers in Sandy and Estacada and shepherding the cause of road signs to announce the pairing of Boring with Dull, Scotland.

Smith says politics is the art of compromise, but that only works when everyone is at the decision table. Too often, she says, everyone has not been at the table or their voices were ignored.

“As a legislator,” she said, “my ability to bring people together to find common ground is proven. I built a coalition, leveraging citizen input to generate bipartisan legislation to allow farmers to build a home on their property without a stifling income proof.”

On controversial issues, Damon says she allows public opinion to guide her decisions, although on some occasions it would be counter-productive to change course.

“Decisions regarding investments in major infrastructure projects such as the Sunrise Corridor or light rail are made incrementally over decades,” Damon said. “If we readjusted our priorities with every economic downturn, nothing would ever be built.”

Smith admits accepting thousands in campaign support from a political action committee after stating her views against the fee to help build the Sellwood Bridge, support of the Urban Renewal measure to let voters decide and Measure 3-401 to allow voters to decide light rail. She said her views matched those of PAC members.

Damon said she has received smaller donations from a wide variety of PACs, representing the diversity of the county.

“I work for the people of the county,” she said, “so while I am an independent thinker, I must include the priorities of the public in my decisions.”

Smith says she learned to take “a broad view of issues and of the people who hold them dear,” and she wants to restore a government of, by and for the people.

Damon reminds voters of her basic principle of public service, stated so well by President Kennedy.

“I firmly believe,” she said, “in this quote from JFK, ‘One person can make a difference and everyone should try.’ I am doing my best to make a difference for my family and yours.”

Ballots will be mailed about Oct. 19, and they are due back in the Elections Department by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6.