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Mary Stern will resign, sixth candidate files

County government — Taking a position with the Association of Oregon Counties, Stern says she will leave her post on the commission in May


Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern announced Jan. 29 she is resigning her post effective May 27, seven months before the end of her term.

Stern has accepted a position as community development/transportation policy manager for the Association of Oregon Counties, an organization she has been involved with for many years.Stern

Stern’s seat, Position 3, is currently up for election. Debra Bridges, victim services director for Yamhill County District Attorney’s office and a Dundee resident, and Mary Starrett, a freelance media relations consultant from Newberg, have so far filed for Stern’s position.

Fellow Commissioner Kathy George’s seat is also up for election. David Russ, Stan Primozich, Sal Peralta and Bill Willis have filed Position 1 on the commission. The deadline to file for both positions is mid-March.

“I have been privileged to work with Yamhill County’s many talented employees, volunteers and elected officials,” Stern said in a press release. “The pride they take in their work is contagious. We are so fortunate to have the highest caliber of dedicated public servants in our county.”

Stern will begin in her new position a week after the May primary in hopes that there will be a clear winner to take over.

County Clerk Brian Van Bergen said selecting an interim commissioner is fairly simple.

“The two remaining commissioners pick the replacement,” he said, adding what would make sense is picking the candidate with the majority votes after the primary, but the commissioners can really pick whoever they like.

“The commissioners could appoint your next door neighbor and that person could serve for six months, but if they’re not on the ballot (by the deadline), they can’t serve next year,” he said. “The practical thing to do is choose someone already on the ballot — that would make it less annoying to the voters.”

Stern said if there isn’t an outright winner from either race, she will work with the commissioners, if they want her help, to find a replacement.

She has served on the Board of Commissioners since 2002 and was re-elected in 2011 to her third and final term as commissioner, due to a three-term limit voted into law in 1996.

“I thank you for allowing me to take this incredible journey in public service,” she said. “You will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Sixth candidate joins race

A fourth candidate recently joined the race for Position 1, the sixth overall. Bill Willis, from Willamina, filed for candidacy Jan. 28, the day before Stern announced her resignation.

Willis comes from a diverse background including work in the school district, the timber industry, farming, the prison system and his church community.

“I’ve been here all my life in the Yamhill County area,” Willis said. He graduates from Willamina High School and Chemeketa Community College with an associate’s degree in forest technology.

Most recently, he worked at the federal prison in Sheridan and was on the Willamina School Board for eight years, serving as board chairman for four.

“I’ve been very involved in the community from the time that my kids were little,” he said, adding that was one reason he decided to run for commissioner.

“My family has been able to grow up raise their families in the Yamhill County area and have jobs and I really feel we need someone in the position — and I’m not saying we haven’t had that, I think commissioners we’ve had have done an outstanding job — I think we need to continue having commissioners in there that will work to create jobs in Yamhill County and I think I can do that.”

Willis said although he thinks job creation is important, he’s not running on a platform.

“I want to try to sell myself to the voters of Yamhill County as a person that has experience in a number of broad areas, I want to let the voters of the county know what I have to offer,” he said. “I do think that jobs is something you could say is an issue for me in the county. I know there will be issues coming up down the road that we may just be seeing or will see in the near future and just think it’s important to have people in the position of Yamhill County commissioners that have a broad vision of the county, and I think I have that, because when those issues do occur one, two or maybe three years down the road we will have the right people in place to decide those issues.”

He said overall, he thinks he has a unique background and is strong supporter of families and a strong supporter of jobs.




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