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Four vie for county spot

With Lonnie Roberts' seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners up for grabs on the May 20 ballot, four local residents are vying for the position. Roberts, elected in 2000, is limited to two four-year terms.

Following is a brief introduction to each candidate:

Carla Piluso

With nearly 30 years of experience in public safety and volunteering for non-profit agencies, Piluso sees her candidacy as an expansion of her service to all of Multnomah County.

And the timing is right. Piluso will retire in December as Gresham's police chief, a position she's held for five years. 'And running for Multnomah County commissioner is the right fit,' she says.

As police chief, Piluso oversees a nearly $22 million budget and partners with neighboring law enforcement agencies, politicians and city, county and state officials. In her free time, she volunteers with a variety of social service agencies geared to toward helping children and the impoverished.

Piluso says she can provide a strong, united voice for all of East County, bringing the recognition and representation it deserves.

Not surprisingly, public safety would be her top priority if elected. But getting East County its fair share of social service dollars to reflect rapidly changing demographic and economic development are other high priorities.

She supports Board Chairman Ted Wheeler's efforts to open the mothballed Wapato Jail, building an eastside justice center and making sheriff's patrols more cost efficient.

Piluso also sees the justice center as a critical part of East County's economic development - another high campaign priority.

'Whether real or perceived, siting the justice center in Rockwood will allow that community to feel safe,' she says. 'And it will attract other businesses to the area.'

Although some have accused Piluso of 'flip-flopping' on the issue, she says she's always supported an eastside justice center, but 'challenged the benefit of it being sited on urban renewal land.' Since the county recently bought property for the justice center in Gresham's urban renewal district, she's gotten behind the project, Piluso says.

As for talk that her own officers don't support her campaign, she points out that the Gresham Police Officers' Association chose to remain neutral.

The association held a candidate's forum in March but of the association's 123 members - plus some from the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Association - only 20 to 30 attended, says Detective Brandon Kaopuiki, the union's public affairs liaison.

Although the association's eight-member executive board recommended candidate Diane McKeel for the position, it invited all 123 union members to vote. Of 55 ballots cast, 23 voted for Piluso, 23 for McKeel and nine opted to offer no endorsement.

Due to the 'lack of unity,' the association didn't endorse anyone, Kaopuiki says.

Piluso stands by her professional track record.

'I've had difficult decisions to make, and those decisions are not always popular, but I believe them to be the right decisions,' she says. 'I've lived my professional life in a public way. I'm always available, approachable and accountable. And that is an element to the board of county commissioners that's really needed.

'I can hit the ground running. … I am the one to do the job.'

Diane McKeel

As executive director of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, McKeel sees East County's potential and it's huge.

'I see great opportunity out here,' she says. ' … We have the largest inventory of developable land in Multnomah County. We have one chance to get this right, and we need to do it.'

She envisions a diversified business base of family-wage jobs in green or sustainable industries.

Through her job, she's developed public sector relationships with local cities, Multnomah County, Metro and the Port of Portland.

'I see a lot of the county's issues as regional, and we need to bring those people to the table,' she says.

McKeel also considers her business-like private-sector approach one of her strengths. She's overseen a variety of budgets - the chamber's approximately $125,000 budget, budgets for two family businesses (a dental practice and a development company), plus those of the community service boards on which she's served, she says.

If elected, 'my focus will be on job creation, the economic development side, with good family-wage jobs with health insurance and benefits,' she says.

Health care is another top priority. McKeel is a dental hygienist and has a degree in health education. She'd like to apply her expertise to county health and wellness programs, as well as partner with hospitals to improve them.

The safety and security of citizens also is a major campaign issue. As such, McKeel supports opening the Wapato Jail and funding programs that prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs. Maintaining transportation infrastructure, particularly aging bridges, is another concern.

Ken Quinby

As a Fairview City Councilor, Quinby says he's the only candidate for county commissioner with any real political experience, 'and I think that's pretty important,' he says.

He also says he has a wider range of experience than his opponents. Piluso's focus is on public safety. McKeel's is on economic development.

'Being on the city council for eight years, I not only grasp those two areas but everything else that makes Fairview a full-service city,' Quinby says.

He also considers himself fiscally conservative, which not only reflects the sensibilities of many East County residents, but is all the more important given the recent economic downturn.

'We need to be prepared as a county to deal with this,' Quinby says, adding that the demand for county services outstrips supply.

If elected, Quinby says his main goal will be to look for financial efficiencies to help turn the county's budget woes around. For example, Fairview hired a collection agency to tackle a backlog of traffic tickets.

Quinby also is concerned about the need for a north-south connector between Interstate 84 and Highway 26, opening the Wapato Jail (preferably without raising taxes) and funding needed bridge repairs.

Economic development is also important, as most of the county's developable land is in East County, he says.

'I am interested in representing the silent majority who needs an ear and a voice at City Hall,' Quinby says. '… I believe that my true purpose as a public servant is to indeed serve the public.'

John Winters

Like most who take an interest in politics, Winters threw his hat into the county commissioner race after a political issue hit close to home.

Winters believes that he and other properties' owners affected by the West of the Sandy River Rural Area Plan from Multnomah County should have been able to vote on the plan. Instead, county commissioners approved it without a vote of the people.

Although he has no political experience, neighbors and others who owned land in the area encouraged him to run for Roberts' seat.

'I think I'm successful,' Winters says. 'I pay my taxes. I think I've got some ideas.'

For example, the county needs to encourage green industries to set up shop in East County, he says.

'I think electric cars are coming,' he says, while talking up the documentary 'Who Killed the Electric Car.' 'Anything we can do to attract that technology to the area, I think we should do.'

Good family-wage jobs are needed. So is an alternative to gas-powered vehicles and the skyrocketing cost to fuel them. Why not address both issues at once while helping the local economy, Winters proposes.

'People want jobs,' he says. 'They want to work and provide for their families. … If the federal government doesn't want to create electric cars, I guess it's up to East Multnomah County to do it … And if we don't do it, another country will.'

If elected, Winters would make lowering crime a priority. He thinks juvenile offenders should be sentenced to painting over graffiti and that the county should do more to keep youth from joining gangs.

He also likes the idea of setting up a hotline residents could call to report potholes and thinks a minimally staffed pot-hole truck could handle the jobs.

'Our roads are going to heck here in East Multnomah County,' he says.

Candidate bios

Name: Carla Piluso

Age: 52

City of residence: Gresham since 1993

Occupation: Chief of the Gresham Police Department

Prior experience: Chief of Police; Chair of Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community

Community Involvement: Head Start, Police Activities League, Human Solutions Board president, Snow-CAP, Kiwanis, Weed and Seed, Salvation Army board member

Family: 15-year-old daughter

Hobbies: Gardening, playing soccer, attending plays and live theater, traveling and spending time with her daughter

Web site: www.carlapiluso.com

Name: Diane McKeel

Age: 61

City of residence: Unincorporated Multnomah County for 34 years

Occupation: Executive director of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce

Prior experience: Multnomah County Library Advisory Board, on Commissioner Jeff Cogen's Business Income Tax task force charged with reforming the BIT, on the interview panel for an economic policy advisor to County Board Chairman Ted Wheeler

Community involvement: Mt. Hood Community College Foundation Board, East Metro Economic Alliance Board, Rivers Confluence Project Board, Oregon State Chamber Board, Oregon Association of Convention and Visitor Bureau Board; Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz Board; Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center Foundation Board

Family: Husband of 37 years Mike McKeel, a local dentist and developer; three grown children, two sons and a daughter

Hobbies: Traveling to spend time with her children, reading and gardening

Web site: votemckeel.com

Name: Ken Quinby

Age: 53

City of residence: Fairview since 1996

Occupation: Property management and maintenance

Prior experience: Eight years as a Fairview City Councilor from 1998-2002 and 2004-present; Fairview Budget Committee 1998-2002 and 2004-present; Multnomah County Emergency Management Policy Board 1998-2000; Regional Emergency Management Group, Policy Board 1998-2002 and 2004-Present; East Multnomah Economic Alliance Board of Directors (EMEA); Gresham/Fairview/Wood Village Solid Waste Citizens Advisory Committee 1998-2001; Community Emergency Response Team since 1999; graduated in 2006 from the Multnomah County/Wood Village Citizen's Police Academy; chaired the city of Fairview Veterans Day Celebration in 2007; completed Teaming with Law Enforcement 'Managing Local Government Public Safety Services' presented by the League of Oregon Cities, 2008 Honorary Member of the Oregon State Sheriff's Association

Family: Single, two grown sons and two grandchildren

Hobbies: Water skiing, was a backup singer for an Elton John impersonator who contracts with the star

Web site: www.ken4county.com

Name: John Winters

Age: 60

City of residence: Troutdale since 2000, previously a 22-year Gresham resident

Occupation: Owned an excavating business for 10 years; now semi-retired but buys homes, fixes them up and sells them

Prior experience: None

Community involvement: None

Family: Single with a grown son and four grandchildren

Hobbies: Is creating a hummingbird sanctuary on 36 acres he owns in Troutdale