The six candidates for Umatilla County Commissioner are becoming pretty familiar with one another — so familiar that Jerry Baker suggested Tuesday they try doing each other’s introductions at their next forum.

With the May 21 election for the commissioner seat held for 30 years by Bill Hansell just five weeks away, the candidates will be seeing even more of each other in the near future.

At Tuesday’s lunchtime meeting of the?Greater Hermiston Area Republican Women’s Club, five of the six candidates discussed their vision for the county and their assets as candidates for the nonpartisan position. Thomas Bailor was absent from the meeting at Desert Lanes in Hermiston.

Moderator Cherie Robins allowed each candidate an introduction, then asked three questions to the field.

After giving a bit of background on themselves and talking about their qualifications for office, the candidates found a way to differentiate themselves over the question “What is your biggest concern for the county?”

Jack Esp and Jerry Baker both said public safety was their No. 1 concern, with Esp focusing on getting more officers on duty and at the jail, and Baker wanting to continue to rebuild the relationship between the commissioners and the sheriff’s office.

Terry Fife chose water allocation as his primary goal, saying the county can be a force in getting more out of the Columbia which will increase the economic viability of the county. He cited a presentation by Fred Ziari, the CEO?of IRZ?Consulting, which said 50 percent of all jobs in Umatilla County are tied to agriculture.

Michael Cannon, who has run for the position three times before, said getting more participation from the people of Umatilla County will answer any problem that arises. He said his goal is to make it easier for people to be involved.

George Murdock said his top concern is sorting out the means by which the county is funded. With unfunded mandates handed down by the state and growing obligations to the Public Employees Retirement System, he said it is imperative the county make its voice heard in Salem and work toward effective reform.

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