Athena Mayor John Shafer announced he is challenging incumbent Larry Givens of Umapine in the race for Umatilla County commissioner.
Shafer in a media announcement said he is running on the motto, “Relationships are primary.” He said commissioners need to get to all parts of the county and was critical the county is underserving residents in the Milton-Freewater area. The county has an office there, he said, but he was not sure how often people visit it. He promised to hold office hours in Milton-Freewater one day a week.
He also advocated for the county to create a priority list for the budget and was critical of the county’s chief financial officer having too much say.
Shafer did not respond to phone calls Thursday. His announcement first appeared in the Valley Herald newspaper. As county offices closed Thursday, Shafer had yet to officially file his candidacy.
Givens filed in October to seek a fourth term. He agreed relationship building is key to effective leadership as a county commissioner and said he has built relationships and connections that benefit his constituents.
Commissioners are based in the county courthouse in Pendleton, but Givens used to hold regular office hours in Milton-Freewater. He said he backed off that last year because he felt there was not much need for it.
Givens also said the county’s budget process allows department heads the freedom to prioritize their needs, then the county’s budget committee makes recommendations and the chief financial officer weighs in. But the commissioners make the final determination.
“When you are in charge of the citizens’ dollars, you have to make those go as far as they can,” Givens said.
Umatilla County has three commissioners, all are at-large. Commissioners serve four-year terms. Each position has an annual salary of $90,852 a year plus benefits.
Shafer is a communications sergeant with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office. If he were to prevail, he would have to quit that job. The county charter prohibits a county employee from serving on the board.
Qualified candidates have until March 6 to file.