PENDLETON — Three Hermiston men are the early contenders in the primary race for the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners.
Dan Dorran, Mark Gomolski and Jonathan Lopez each look to serve in place of Commissioner Bill Elfering, who is not seeking re-election to the Position 3 seat on the county board.
Dorran is a long-established local figure, having served on the county fair board for 20 years until he stepped down in 2017. He also served on the state County Fair Commission from 2014 to 2018 and on the board of directors for Hermiston’s Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center from 2011 to 2017.
He dove back into county business with a stint on the county’s Charter Review Committee.
Gomolski, too, served on that committee. He also is in his first term as a member of the Hermiston School Board and has served on Hermiston’s Hispanic Advisory Committee since 2016.
Lopez also is on the Hispanic Advisory Committee and is a member of the Latino Business Network.
Gomolski managed Elfering’s campaign for commissioner four years ago, and the two remain friends. Gomolski said he wants to take the reins from Elfering.
“I know Bill has a lot of economic development plans in the works, and I would like to make sure those things come to fruition,” Gomolski said.
He wasn’t able to talk more Tuesday due to an appointment, and Dorran’s voicemail indicated he was traveling Tuesday morning.
Lopez and his wife, Jazmin Lopez, in January opened the student tutoring service Einstein Learning Center, Hermiston. He listed multiple past occupations on his candidacy paperwork, including pastor, firefighter/EMT and executive assistant. But he said this is his first foray into seeking public office, and the county commissioner role would allow him to fulfill his desire to help the community.
Lopez said his family has put down its roots in Hermiston and has grown to love the community. He said he is a member of the Apostolic Church and claimed a large number of Hispanic community members reached out and encouraged him to run. He said he sees the Hispanic and youth communities increasingly tuning into national politics and that is filtering down to the local level.
“They’re beginning to see how their vote can make a difference,” Lopez said.
Umatilla County commissioners make $94,448 a year plus benefits. The job is full time. County counsel Doug Olsen said nothing in the county charter prohibits commissioners from serving on outside public boards and committees. State law, however, he said, prohibits elected officials from serving in more than one lucrative office at a time.
Olsen said volunteer positions on school boards, advisory committees and the like probably would not qualify as lucrative.
The charter, however, prohibits county employees from also serving as commissioners. Commissioner John Shafter, for example, resigned his position with the sheriff’s office before stepping onto the board.
Commissioners also cannot serve on the Charter Review Committee. Olsen said that committee has to operate independent of the county board.
Dorran and Gomolski have both served on that committee since 2018. The group recommended county commissioners should focus on policymaking and advocacy and hire a manager for handling the daily administrative duties of county government.
The county commissioners in April considered that recommendation for the ballot. Elfering and Commissioner John Shafer voted it down, while Commissioner George Murdock voted in favor.
But the three commissioners approved the charter committee’s two other proposals for a vote of the people in November — one would simplify the elections of commissioners and the other would update language and duties regarding the sheriff’s office.
Recent commissioner races have drawn as many as six candidates. The cutoff for running in the May primary is March 10, 2020, leaving plenty of time for the field to grow.