MORROW COUNTY — Morrow County voters will have a choice between incumbent Jim Doherty and challenger Joel Peterson for Position 1 on the Morrow County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 3.
Doherty, a Boardman cattle rancher who has held the seat since 2016, came in first in the primaries with 41.56% of the vote. Peterson, an Ione wheat farmer, came in second with 38.25% of the vote in the spring.
Peterson has served on a long list of boards and committees, including the Morrow County Planning Commission, Bank of Eastern Oregon board, Ione School Board and the budget committee for the Port of Morrow. He was born in Heppner and attended Ione schools, and raised his children there. He said one of his biggest focuses if elected would be to help bring the north and south ends of the county together and find projects that would benefit both sides, despite their unique differences.
“I think my experience will help us work together,” he said.
While Boardman and Irrigon have experienced rapid growth, communities to the south have seen a stagnation. But Peterson said there are opportunities to help bring more growth to communities like Heppner, such as creating a rural residential zone there. He said he also wants to see a focus on better broadband internet access throughout the county, which could allow people to live in small Morrow County cities while working from home for larger companies.
Peterson also said he wanted to take a hard look at “what the commissioners should be doing and whether they’re overreaching” by being over-involved in day-to-day operations rather than focusing on policy setting.
“We have great employees, and need to let them work,” he said.
Doherty said he is running for another term on the board of commissioners because he has greatly enjoyed his time on the board and wants to continue the work he has started.
“I probably have more passion for the job now than I did when I got started,” he said. “I just love the work.”
Despite being a first-term commissioner, Doherty was elected as president of the Association of Oregon Counties, and said he has been able to be a voice for Morrow County in the state and work with state and federal lawmakers.
He was born and raised in the very southernmost part of Morrow County and now lives in Boardman, but said he doesn’t like to ever use the terms “north county” and “south county.”
“If you continue to talk in the language of north county and south county, it just drives divisiveness,” he said.
That being said, he recognized that different communities in Morrow County face different challenges, and he wants to see communities, such as Lexington — which he described as in danger of being unincorporated and “absorbed” into the county — get the extra attention they need to improve. He said he is particularly interested in beefing up transit options in that area.
Peterson and Doherty participated in a candidate forum hosted by the Boardman Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 2, where they answered questions from the moderator and from participants on subjects, such as the most pressing infrastructure needs in the county who their top campaign contributors are. Video of the hour-long forum can be found online at www.facebook.com/ChamberBoardman.