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Commission should hear rural voices

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has a new public face. Three members of the five-person panel were elected in this year’s balloting process.

We expect that will bring a collective change of attitude among the group. But we hope the attitudes new members bring to the commission table do not affect their choices as much as the expectations of their constituents.

We are apprehensive particularly about representing the concerns of the county’s rural residents — especially those in East Clackamas County.

Four of the five commissioners live in the populated areas of the county. Only Tootie Smith lives in a rural area, but her home and sphere of influence is in Molalla, which is quite distant from the eastern county.

Smith says she represents rural residents, but we have not seen much of her in these parts. She came to one Boring Community Planning Organization meeting 13 months ago to speak about her primary election campaign.

Commissioner Jim Bernard’s presence in east county also has been scarce, although he does show up when the commission has a scheduled meeting such as the annual luncheon with the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce.

We believe rural views are more likely to be represented by Martha Schrader, who scored an outright victory in the primary.

Even though she now lives in Lake Oswego, she has rural roots. She also has proven her interest in serving the entire county by visiting east county residents and attending community meetings in Damascus, Boring, Sandy, Estacada and the mountain villages.

Schrader seems to have the attitude we wish was expressed by most of the commissioners. She wants to hear what people are feeling and thinking before reaching decisions. She wants to take the commission to the people so they have a chance to engage in their government and the commission has a better chance to be guided by public viewpoints.

Paul Savas is another commissioner who has been impressive in his desire to hear from the public he serves. We hope he is able to maintain that posture with the new dynamics on the county panel.

For Commission Chairman John Ludlow, we hope his service on the commission goes smoothly and the types of difficulties he has had in some previous leadership positions do not show again.

His conservative views are likely to match a good portion of the county’s population, but we hope he allows other views to be expressed and to have a proportionate influence on decisions. That wider view is something that has been missing during the past couple of years.

We’re sorry to see Jamie Damon of Eagle Creek step aside, because we saw her as a calming and cohesive influence on the commission.

But we believe Schrader has the experience and ability to step into that mediator and consensus-seeking role.

Before this major face change on the commission, there were too many decisions reached behind closed doors, and too many legitimate concerns brought to the panel that died before they were ever placed on an agenda.

This election, we hope, has put an end to those practices.

Time will tell, and we will be watching.