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Three challengers for county chair all target Ludlow

Four candidates, including the incumbent, will face off in the May 17 primary

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Four candidates will compete in the May 17 primary for chair of the Clackamas County Commission (from left): John Ludlow, Dan Holiday, Paul Savas and Jim BernardWhen it comes to who will lead Clackamas County commissioners in the next four years, the three challengers say incumbent John Ludlow is the issue.

Ludlow, who is seeking a second term as chairman, says that’s just fine with him.

“I think we have accomplished a great deal as a team,” Ludlow said at a South Metro Leadership Forum sponsored by the Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “I have never heard from any of my fellow commissioners, let alone staff, that I conduct hostile meetings — ones filled with rhetoric or innuendo. We get a lot done. I believe I have earned my position.”

Two of Ludlow’s challengers are Commissioners Jim Bernard and Paul Savas, who are both in the middle of their own four-year terms. Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay is the third. If no one wins a majority in the May 17 primary, the top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

“Unfortunately, only one commissioner believes that (hostility),” Ludlow said, “and I think it’s in his imagination.”

But Savas, who ran third in the 2012 primary for the job Ludlow won over incumbent Charlotte Lehan, said he knows firsthand the difference between the current board and his tenure on the boards of Oak Lodge water and sanitary districts.

“In my first 12 years of elected experience, I knew the value of teamwork, even when you have different opinions,” said Savas, who was elected in 2010. “However, the past three years have been really difficult, and there is not much in the way of teamwork. I’m running for chair in order to bring harmony to the commission. Hostile rhetoric and innuendo are not the ingredients of teamwork.”

Bernard, a former Milwaukie mayor elected to the board in 2008, offered a middle-ground assessment.

“Frankly, I think we have always worked as a team. We do now; we did then, when we started. We get a lot done. The majority of the votes are unanimous,” Bernard said. “It may have started out challenging ... but things have changed.”

Bernard did refer specifically to 2013, when Ludlow and newly elected Commissioner Tootie Smith called for the resignation of the county administrator, who eventually took a position with Metro. A new administrator was hired later that year from Washington state.

Bernard also specified his disagreements with other county decisions. “In a couple of areas, Clackamas County is nowhere,” he said.

Among them: a 2011 initiative to require countywide voter approval of new urban renewal districts — the requirement excludes cities — and no follow-through on a 2011 decision by the board and the Metro Council to include the Stafford area for an urban-reserve designation, which opens the way for its development in 50 years. (A majority of the board wants a study of the development potential of other lands before it proceeds with approval of Stafford, as the Metro Council already has.)

“I’m willing to look forward to do something for Clackamas County,” Bernard said.”I have a commitment to sit down with Metro and work out our differences with Stafford and with the area south of the Willamette. That is the most valuable farmland in the county.”

But Holladay, the Oregon City mayor who jumped into the race just before the March 8 filing deadline, said it may take an outsider with experience to do the job as chairman.

“I find it amusing that Commissioner Bernard says everybody is working together and then goes through the litany of how they are not,” said Holladay, who made a losing bid for commissioner in 2012.

“One of the reasons I put myself into this race is that I can bring people together and get people to work together. What I found is that if you have people sitting down and talking to each other, even if they are from opposite sides, you start to feel those folks are human, you can talk to them and make results happen.”

Holladay questioned a 2014 lawsuit by the county against Oregon City for charging right-of-way fees to the Tri-City Service District, which provides wastewater treatment for Oregon City, Gladstone and West Linn. A 2015 Oregon Supreme Court decision in a related case negated the county’s position, and a judge subsequently awarded legal fees to Oregon City.

Ludlow, however, said it was Oregon City that balked at a collaborative approach to resolving wastewater treatment capacity.

Ludlow has made no secret of his disagreement with Metro policies that he asserts worsen traffic congestion and population density. He has said more money needs to go into road maintenance and widening a six-mile stretch of Interstate 205 between Stafford Road and the George Abernethy Bridge, and that Clackamas County needs more land zoned for industrial use.

“Metro does not want to make any changes even though we have proven we are 1,100 acres short at minimum of job-producing industrial lands,” Ludlow said. “I believe it needs to be apportioned on that map and we are working toward that.”

Contact Peter Wong at 503- 580-0266 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..