In two of Morrow County’s most important races, for county commissioner and sheriff, we recommend voters choose the incumbent.
Commissioner Jim Doherty is running to retain Position 1 on the Morrow County Board of Commissioners against challenger Joel Peterson.
In our experience, Doherty has been highly engaged and enthusiastic in promoting Morrow County’s interests during his first term. He has a good working relationship with important partners, such as state legislators and neighboring counties. He has been an advocate for the county during COVID-19 as the state has doled out both shutdown orders and additional funding.
Doherty has actively worked to help county residents, whether it is the many long hours he put in helping clean up after Boardman’s damaging wind storm in May or helping Boardman’s new food pantry secure funding for a permanent location. His position as president of the Association of Oregon Counties, as well as the breadth of his endorsements, speaks highly of the respect he has earned.
His challenger, Peterson, seems like a solid candidate with a good background of leadership experience in the county, including time on the Morrow County Planning Commission. But we think Doherty is doing a good job and would like to see what he can accomplish as he moves past the natural learning curve that comes with any new position.
Another Morrow County incumbent, Sheriff Ken Matlack, is being challenged by Mark Pratt, a sergeant in the Boardman Police Department and former Morrow County deputy.
It seems that both candidates’ views align on many broad issues, such as support of the Second Amendment. Where they differ most is in philosophies of administration and policy.
Pratt would like to see a staffing restructure in the department and see more focus on patrolling county roads instead of the interstate and equal time patrolling all parts of the county. Matlack has ready answers for many of Pratt’s criticisms, citing a shrinking Oregon State Police presence in the area and higher crime in the north part of the county.
We don’t support Matlack’s involvement with right-wing anti-immigration groups, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which paid for Matlack to travel to Washington, D.C., last year. He should never have been associated with an organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and we don’t believe that trip, or trips he has made to the U.S.-Mexico border, were appropriate when, as he stated himself in a recent candidate forum, sheriff’s offices are legally barred from enforcing immigration law.
We hope in the future that Matlack focuses more on representing and protecting all Morrow County residents and less time promoting his views on a federal issue.
However, we believe he has done a credible job of running the sheriff’s office during his many years of leadership and has the ability to continue to do so if reelected.
He has a depth of experience with more than 40 years of law enforcement experience, and a proven track record of running the sheriff’s office in the face the challenges that come from rural law enforcement covering a large geographical area with limited resources. When needed, he jumps in to take calls or transport offenders to jail personally.
For those reasons, we recommend he retains his seat.