Larry Givens and George Murdock will each seek another term as Umatilla County commissioner.
The county elections office confirmed Murdock filed his Position 1 candidacy paperwork Tuesday morning to run in the May primary. Givens was on the road Tuesday morning to John Day for an Eastern Oregon Counties Association meeting on Blue Mountain forest management and said he “definitely will be running again” for Position 2 and plans to file this week.
Commissioners serve four-year terms. Givens is seeking a fourth consecutive term. Murdock won the 2013 special election and is seeking a second full term. Commissioner Bill Elfering won a second term in 2016.
Givens said he wants to remain a voice for the county on pressing natural resource issues, from forest and wolf management to wind farms to irrigation. The last, he said, is key to the county’s economic development.
“If you’re not at the table, you go hungry,” he said. “I still truly believe that. And sometimes if you’re not at the table, you’re the dinner.”
He is the immediate past president of the Association of Oregon Counties and serves on multiple association committees and is active in the National Association of Counties. He also is a policy board member of the Walla Walla Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Murdock said his focus remains on the county’s financial management and stability. He is the commissioner responsible for the county budget and said he works closely with the chief financial officer and department heads to keep the county on a “financially prudent” path.
The federal nor state government are providing reliable funding to pay for county programs and services, he said, and special levies and bonds are non-starters. The answer to maintaining programs and services is in growing the tax base, he said.
“We have taken steps to help make Umatilla County attractive to economic development,” he said, including data centers and wind farms. He said the investments increase the county’s assessed value and create new jobs.
Murdock serves as the vice-chair on the National Association of Counties’ education subcommittee, chairs the Oregon Courthouse Facilities Task Force and serves on local boards and committees, including chairing the Wildhorse Foundation and the Pendleton Enhancement Project.
The two commissioners also discussed the county’s involvement with the Eastern Oregon Event and Trade Center in Hermiston. The county and city of Hermiston are partners in EOTEC, which in August hosted the county fair and the Farm-City Pro Rodeo for the first time. Murdock and Givens praised the success of the fair at its new home, which is already in need of a major fix.
Birds are pulling out insulation from the center’s large barns, as the East Oregonian reported Sept. 29. Netting to protect that insulation costs about $200,000, and EOTEC does not have any money to make the fix.
Givens serves on the EOTEC Authority Board and said if it asked the county to help pay to address the problem, the county might pull from its fair fund. County CFO Robert Pahl said about $129,000 is in the fund, which usually carries over to the next year.
Murdock said he has “limited excitement” for major rehab work on a brand new building. He said the conversation needs to focus on EOTEC’s long-term oversight and management.
Givens said EOTEC needs taxpayer support for a while, but how much longer remains the question.
“We’re approaching that time,” he said.
The event center needs to support itself, he said, and, like Murdock, stressed the need for management, either with a director and staff or contracting a management team. Givens said the second option seems to deliver more bang for the buck.
The candidacy filing period began Sept. 7 and closes March 6. Candidates for nonpartisan positions need to fill out a form and submit a $50 filing fee to:
Umatilla County Elections
216 S.E. Fourth St., Suite. 18
Pendleton, OR 97801
Forms are available online at sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/SEL101 or at www.umatillacounty.net/elections (select Election Manuals and Filing Forms).