Four candidates vie for Columbia County commissioner seat
Four candidates have filled out the race for Position 2 on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
Aside from the incumbent — Henry Heimuller — Paulette Lichatowich, Kimberly Johns, and Don Campbell will also run for a seat on the board. Wayne Mayo also filed for the seat, but confirmed Thursday he plans to withdraw from the race to focus on family.
The 2018 primary election on May 15 marks Heimuller's third bid for the commissioner seat. He was first elected to the board in 2010. He brings a background in transit and emergency response, having previously worked as a paramedic and serving as a transit coordinator, as well as volunteering with local boards and commissions before serving the county as an elected official.
Lichatowich also brings government experience. She currently serves as a Port of St. Helens commissioner and a Columbia County planning commissioner. She and her husband also work in fisheries research.
Lichatowich said she entered the race to bring a new vision to the board of commissioners. A campaign Facebook page indicates her dedication to serving as "a voice for farmers and the small business community."
The commissioner race marks the first run for public office for Johns, who owns USIA, a dive gear company in St. Helens specializing in high-end and military grade wetsuits. Johns previously served in the U.S. Air Force before being discharged in 1973. He went on to serve as a reserve deputy with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and a volunteer with a Sheriff's Office search and rescue team. He's also held roles with federal agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Johns, who spoke to the Spotlight in January about his long history working with law enforcement, despite having a felony conviction, is promoting his history of public service and questioning how the county spends tax dollars, as well as the efficiency of the county's bus system, CC Rider.
Also new to the local political arena is Don Campbell of Rainier.
Recently, Campbell has been a familiar face at county meetings, pleading for county and state Department of Environmental Quality intervention into what he says is an ongoing wastewater issue at Deer Pointe Meadows mobile home park in Rainier.
Last year, Campbell appealed the county's decision to issue a Land Use Compatibility Statement for the park, to allow the park's owner to upgrade an onsite septic system. Campbell says raw sewage is seeping from the property onto his and other neighboring properties, creating a public health hazard.
That issue, combined with other land use issues, sparked Campbell's decision to enter the race.
"I've been unhappy with some of the decisions the commissioners have made in the past," Campbell said Wednesday. "The communication from the county citizens and the commissioners isn't getting where it needs to be."
Campbell is a member of the 701 Operating Engineers Union. He said he feels he brings some needed diversity to the county commissioner race.
"I'm not a career politician," Campbell said. "I haven't been in the mix of a lot of things. ... I know common sense and I've learned a lot about land use. If you want something done, you got to do it yourself."
If no candidate secures at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November.
Aside from the commissioners race, Columbia County voters will choose a district attorney, but current interim District Attorney Jeff Auxier, who was appointed by the governor last year, is running unopposed for the position.
Sen. Betsy Johnson, who currently serves as the 16th District representative in the Oregon Senate, will also have at least one challenger for her position.
John Maxwell of Linnton announced he plans to enter the race as an unaffiliated candidate for the 16th District in the 2018 General Election.