League of Women Voters of Clackamas County hosts event

Three of the four Clackamas County Board of Commissioners candidates participated in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clackamas County at West Linn City Hall on Oct. 4.

Chair candidates John Ludlow and incumbent Charlotte Lehan as well as Position 4 incumbent Jamie Damon took part in the forum. Position 4 candidate Tootie Smith elected not to participate. About 20 people attended the event.

Ed Salzman, former bureau chief for the Sacramento Bee and editor of the California Journal, moderated.

Lehan, a former mayor of Wilsonville, has served on the commission since 2008 and was appointed as chairwoman in 2011 to replace outgoing Chairwoman Lynn Peterson. Lehan said she is a seventh generation Clackamas County resident and loves her city and her SUBMITTED - CHARLOTTE LEHAN

“I have spent much of my life building cities in Clackamas County,” she said.

Ludlow is also a former Wilsonville mayor and city council member. Ludlow has owned his own real estate company since 1985. Ludlow said his true passion is volunteering with seniors and at the women’s prison, Coffee Creek.

The competition between Ludlow and Lehan is not new. In 2003 he worked on a failed recall against Lehan when she was Wilsonville mayor. He then successfully sued the city of Wilsonville to regain his planning commission seat after city councilors voted to remove him.

Damon was appointed to the board of commissioners in June 2011 to fill the vacancy created when Lehan was elevated to the chairwoman’s position. Damon, who lives in Eagle Creak, said she joined the commission because she was concerned with the lack of a consistent rural perspective on the county commission.

After introductions, the candidates were asked six questions by the moderator followed by a few submitted questions from the SUBMITTED - JAMIE DAMON

When asked about their individual strengths, Lehan pointed to her long experience in government; Damon stressed her experience as a mediator and that she is a team player; and Ludlow said his ability to collaborate with others and his willingness to talk and listen to the people were important.

Candidates were then asked for their vision of the county 20 years from now.

Ludlow said his vision does not match Metro’s vision of doubling the population and increasing the size of the county by 10 percent.

“I don’t like high density. I think 40 units per acre is just ugly,” Ludlow said, adding that he sees a need to bring in more land.

Lehan countered by saying, “It’s nice to say we need more land, but the truth of the matter is they aren’t making any more of it.”

She stressed the need to take care of the existing cities and to protect assets. She cited West Linn and Lake Oswego as good examples.

Damon envisioned a place that would accommodate people in all stages of their lives, from college students to empty-nesters — encompassing jobs, housing and transportation choices.

Both Lehan and Damon talked about collaboration and speaking with other commissioners to build relationships on the board.

“I think having a strong team is paramount to getting things done,” Damon said.

However, Ludlow said it is challenging to interact with each of the commissioners after being called the “Tea Party Prince of Darkness” on the Democratic Party website.

“I try to stick with the issues,” he said. “I’d like to get along and find common ground.”

Both Lehan and Damon admitted they are unsure what affect Measure 3-401 will have on transportation in the future, saying they are trying to figure out what the voters’ intent was on the measure. Measure 3-401 requires voter approval before money can be spent on rail lines.

“We are taking some time to let the dust settle,” Damon said. “There are a number of things we need to settle out. People voted on this measure for very different reasons.”by: SUBMITTED - JOHN LUDLOW

However, Ludlow said the confusion is “much ado about nothing.”

“It passed,” he said. “It’s very easy to understand.”

The candidates also fielded questions about the uprising on the Clackamas River Water Board with the threat of multiple resignations and the moving of the sheriff’s office to new quarters.

A question from the audience asked the candidates’ level of support for rebuilding the Sellwood Bridge.

Lehan said the county commission is not supporting it all. Ludlow said the county has plenty of its own bridge issues to address. And Damon said she supports the project, but the county isn’t putting any dollars toward it.

In closing comments, Ludlow said, “I’m a lover of people. I’m a believer in people.” He added he would like to be involved when cuts are made. “There’s a little cleaning of the house necessary.”

Lehan stressed the positive things happening in the county, such as the redevelopment of the former Blue Heron Paper Co. properties and redevelopment of Happy Valley’s Eagle’s Landing.

She also said the upcoming framework planning for the Borland and Stafford area has great opportunity. “This is the crown jewel of the region for new employment land,” she said of the area.

Damon wants to build on opportunities. “Clackamas County is truly a land of opportunity,” she said. “We have such diversity and such unique communities.”

Election ballots will be mailed Oct. 19. The deadline for new voter registration is Tuesday.

For more information about the candidates and ballot measures, visit

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