Voters repel move to make positions appointed

Jackson County voters have spoken, and they overwhelmingly wish to continue having the final word for the county's assessor, clerk and surveyor positions.

Measures 15-106, 15-107 and 15-108 would have made the three appointed positions rather than elected. The measures were put on the ballot by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Members John Rachor and Don Skundrick brought up the issue after taking office in January.

Commissioner C.W. Smith has said there wasn't a specific problem that prompted the measures. He said that with elections it's possible that someone with little or no experience could end up running a county department.

The measures were defeated handily, with more than 80 percent of voters in early returns casting to keep the status quo.

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, who was busy Tuesday night tallying votes at the Elections Office, said she supports the voters' wishes.

"That's why we have the voting process," Walker said. "I will do my job regardless. The voters were heard tonight."

Walker won the position in the 2008 general election.

None of the three officials has the power to make or change public policy or laws. Each position requires a specific set of professional qualifications.

The officials have no power over their budgets, either; they must request spending authority from the commissioners, just like every other county department head.

Jackson County Surveyor Kerry Bradshaw said Tuesday's results were not surprising. He believes the positions should be up for election.

"I think the positions should be elected simply because we as a society don't have as much say in our government anymore," Bradshaw said. "We should hang on to that."

Bradshaw said history plays a role in keeping the surveyor an elected position. In the past, surveyors held a lot of power when it came to how an area developed. Surveyors once determined road placement and property boundaries.

"We just don't do those things a lot anymore," Bradshaw said. "It's now more of a management position. So the reasons for why it is an elected position are really gone, but I still support the fact that it should be elected."

Jackson County has bucked a trend by other counties throughout the state, which have changed their charters to make the assessor, surveyor and clerk positions appointed.

Assessor Dan Ross is on record saying he opposed the idea of the positions being appointed.

Had the measures passed, the only elected positions would have been the three commissioners and the sheriff.

Walker said the positions are not affiliated with a political party, which makes it harder to wage an election campaign.

"You don't have a platform," Walker said. "Your platform is, 'I promise to follow the laws.' "

Chris Conrad is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4471; or email

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