Umatilla County’s three commissioners are among the most important elected positions in northeast Oregon. They are the main tools local voters have to help shape and direct how our communities will look and operate in the future.
Such important positions cannot be lifelong appointments, and those seats must be contested often so local government operates as efficiently as possible. Only with competition does the cream rise to the top. Only with debate and the free exchange of ideas will the best plan be uncovered.
Which is why we are imploring for contested races as a voting majority of the commission is up for grabs in 2018. That election season begins with the primary in May and ends with the general in November.
Both Larry Givens and George Murdock have declared they are running for re-election. For Givens, this would be his fourth, four-year term on the commission. For Murdock, who has had a seat since a 2013 special election, it would be his second full term.
Perhaps they remain the best people for the job. But voters should be able to ask themselves every four years if that’s still the case. And they should have alternatives to the status quo, should that be the direction they wish to go.
There are numerous Umatilla County residents in private enterprise, and others with experience in city government, who would be excellent candidates for the position. They should consider throwing their hat into the ring and trying for a promotion.
Recently, we have been heartened by city council elections in Hermiston and Pendleton that saw contested seats and public forums. Those contested races have made for better councils.
This re-energized civic engagement should translate to the county level. County commissioner is a lucrative post, with power and responsibility and a salary much higher than Umatilla County’s average. Like any open, sought-after position in the county, it should draw plenty of qualified applicants.