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Columbia County hires jail levy activist, former journalist

Randy Sanders quits campaign after agreeing to PIO job


by: FILE PHOTO - Randy SandersColumbia County officials signed a personal services contract Tuesday, March 11, to hire a St. Helens resident as the county’s public information officer.

Randy Sanders, who made headlines in January when he and St. Helens City Councilor Susan Conn started an effort to get a property tax levy to fund the Columbia County Jail on the May 20 primary ballot, will be working for the county as a contractor to develop a communications plan and assist the county with outreach to news media and the general public.

“I’m excited about the county being able to tell its story,” said County Commissioner Tony Hyde at the Board of County Commissioners’ Wednesday meeting. “We haven’t been doing that very well, I’m afraid.”

Commissioner Earl Fisher said the board became interested in having a county public information officer after commissioners attended an intergovernmental meeting in Gold Beach in late January. He said Hyde introduced Sanders to the other commissioners as the leading candidate for the position.

“We just felt that here’s a guy who has what we want,” Fisher said Wednesday, before the board meeting. “Hopefully ... he will help us get the message out.”

Sanders referred to the position as “a dream job” and “an awesome challenge” on his personal Facebook page Saturday.

“I’ll be disseminating the most pertinent information from three savvy, articulate, highly skilled and engaged commissioners (two Democrats and a Republican) I have ever dealt with, to the citizens of the most livable county in the Pacific Northwest,” Sanders wrote. “I’ll work with print media, radio, TV and an array of social media platforms to expose to the world that Columbia County is indeed the most exciting, most livable and the most beautiful American community.”

In his initial interview with the Spotlight Tuesday, Sanders was adamant that he would keep his work on behalf of the levy campaign — with which Fisher said the county is not involved, although he and other county officials are supportive — separate from his work for Columbia County.

“I’m doing that on the side,” Sanders said. “I’m doing that as a citizen. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the county.”

But Hyde asked Sanders Tuesday afternoon to end his involvement with the levy effort as a condition of working for the county, the commissioner said Wednesday — a condition Sanders accepted.

Sanders told the Spotlight, “I am working for the county as a contractor. I am not going to do anything as far as communications with the sheriff’s levy. I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Hyde explained, “We asked him to step down off of all campaign stuff, just because [of] the notion of impropriety. ... We asked him not to do that anymore, as long as he’s contracting for us. We just don’t think that’s appropriate.”

The contract signed between Sanders and the county is effective until Aug. 31 and retroactive to Thursday, March 6. It specifies that Sanders will be paid $30 per hour, with his total compensation not to exceed $25,000 for the duration of the contract.

Sanders said Tuesday that his first order of business will be developing a strategy for Columbia County to convey information to the public.

“The first thing I’m going to do is put together a communication plan,” said Sanders. He said he plans to draw on social media, which he described as “pretty powerful these days.”