Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard announced last Tuesday that he will run for re-election next year.

Although he’s won two elections, Bernard acknowledges that he has his work cut out for him in keeping his seat on the board. His main campaign message will be that he looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Clackamas County. Although he was first elected to the five-member board just five years ago, Bernard is the longest-serving commissioner and believes that commissioners and citizens need the stability that he provides.

“I can continue to provide thoughtful, stable leadership as we navigate through uncertain times,” he said.

Bernard lamented the additional loss of stability, experience and institutional knowledge through the announced departures of County Administrator Steve Wheeler, Transportation Director Cam Gilmour and Legal Counsel Stephen Madkour since the 2012 election of new board members John Ludlow and Tootie Smith.

“John wanted them gone, and even though he didn’t have the votes, he decided he could not work with (Madkour and Wheeler),” he said.

President of the nonprofit Celebrate Milwaukie Inc., Bernard is a fourth-generation Oregonian and the third-generation owner of Bernard’s Garage. As a longtime community leader, he has served as president of the Milwaukie Downtown Development Association, chairman of North Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce, and as Milwaukie’s mayor.

“I got involved in the community because Milwaukie was struggling to find its identity,” Bernard said. “I co-founded the Milwaukie Sunday Farmers Market in 1999, which helped us build community identity.”

Bernard easily won countywide commissioner elections in 2008 and ‘10, but since then commissioners have campaigned heavily against light rail, and Bernard has been a longtime vocal supporter of TriMet’s line through Milwaukie. In 2011, Bernard voted against letting voters decide whether to honor Clackamas County’s $25 million pledge to TriMet, after Madkour called it a “binding enforceable agreement.”

After a petition drive, voters put light rail on the ballot anyway, and just last week, a judge agreed with Madkour’s assessment.

However, Bernard intends to keep his focus on what he sees as the issues that really matter in the lives of Clackamas County residents. During lengthy county budget talks, he, by and large, tries to secure funding for departments such as the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, district attorney, community corrections, roads and economic development.

“We are still struggling with a difficult economy, lack of jobs, declining roads and other necessary public infrastructure, as well as homelessness, domestic violence and families in crisis,” he said. “I want to continue my efforts to focus investing in programs that have proven to be successful to make sure that the resources we invest in actually make a difference.”

Open door, open mind

A liaison to the Clackamas County Fair Board and CCSO, Bernard formed the first county Audit Committee and has served as its chairman and on several Association of Oregon Counties board and legislative committees, including as co-chair of the Public Safety Committee. Bernard also formed Clackamas County’s Veterans Committee to better serve veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a member of the state Board of Community Corrections, he has participated in funding negotiations for prisons and jails. In an effort to efficiently invest limited federal and state dollars, he’s involved in a study of housing and homelessness.

Bernard lists his other recent successes, including:

1. Helping resolve the problems for the “out-of-control Clackamas River Water Board,” where Commissioner Pat Holloway was recalled in March.

2. Working with the Legislature to stop a composting facility from locating in the Stafford area.

3. Bringing people together last year to create a one-stop Family Justice Center where abused women and seniors can get the services and protection they need.

Bernard wants to continue to use his small business background to build relationships with local businesses and encourage them to invest in and create jobs for Clackamas County. He also pledged to continue his leadership style of respect and open communication.

“I keep an open door and an open mind to citizens, businesses and ideas to ensure that I lead with purpose and focus on issues and solutions that truly make a difference,” he said.

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