2020 General Election: Four candidates in running for County Commission Seat 3

Scott Bruslind, 61

Residence/Family: Resident of Linn County since 1993; lived in Albany 1993-97, Lacomb 1997-Present. Wife Linda (married in 1993) and three children, all born at home in Lacomb. Daughter teaches elementary school in Milwaukee, Wis. Others attend Oregon State University.
Education: New Milford High School (Conn.) (1977), Upsala College (1982, B.S. chemistry), University of Arizona (1996, master’s degree in agricultural education).
Professional Background/Work Experience: Career as analytical chemist has involved work in Phoenix, Ariz. (cotton field testing); Niagara Falls, N..Y (hazardous waste recycling, Love Canal mitigation); Imperial Valley, Calif. (aquaculture/water quality control); Tucson, Ariz. (copper mining, wastewater monitoring); Albany (formaldehyde production/thermosetting resin for wood products); and for the last 23 years food and beverage testing in his Analysis Labratory in Lacomb. Co-founder, with Matt Cowart, of Conversion Brewing Co., downtown Lebanon (2014-18.)
Political Experience/Affiliations: Board member/vice-chair, Lacomb Irrigation District (2014-present); fourth-generation Democrat. Great-grandfather was mayor of Smethport, Pa.; father was elected selectman of Sherman, Conn.
Other Community Involvement/Affiliations (outside of activities/experience already listed): AYSO Region 870- referee and referee administrator (early to mid-2010); Scouts – Boy Scouts of America Committee Chair- Pack 326, Scio; Scoutmaster Troop 7088; Lebanon (Boys, 2016-18) and 9088 (Girls, 2019-present). Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis board member and current past president.
Contact: (541) 619-9471

Sherrie Sprenger, 55

Residence/Family: Nearly 50-year resident of Linn County, currently in rural Lebanon. Married to husband Kyle (26 years next month); one married son and daughter-in-law, Austin and Corinne; “perfect” grandson Ashton.
Education: Jefferson High School; Corban University (bachelor’s in management and communications.)
Professional Background/Work Experience: Former deputy sheriff, Grant and Benton counties; Small business owner; State representative for nearly 13 years.
Political Experience/Affiliations: District 17 state representative (2010-present); Linn County Compensation Board member; Fair Dismissal Appeals Board member; Lebanon Community School Board (vice chair and member).
Other Community Involvement/Affiliations: OneSweetHome board member; New Hope Pregnancy Center board chair; Sunday school teacher. Contact: Sherriesprenger.com.
Contact: (541) 979-6337

Gary Sullivan, 69

Residence/Family: 45-year resi-dent of Linn County; lives in Sweet Home. Divorced with three adult daughters; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild and another on the way.
Education: GED; Chemeketa Community College, (associate’s de-gree, applied science); Linn-Benton Community College (associate’s de-grees, arts and general studies).
Professional Background/Work Experience: In Oregon, union lumber mill worker, union journeyman carpenter; small timber lot management/logging.
Political Experience/Affiliations: Politically aware for more than 53 years regarding civil and human rights both domestically and internationally. Member of the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO). 2018 IPO candidate for Linn County Commissioner Position 1.
Other Community Involvement/Affiliations (outside of activities/experience already listed): About 1990, forced Public Utilities Commission by petition to lower local long-distance telephone rates in Linn County from 25 cents to a nickel per minute, saving Linn County residents millions of dollars (his extrapolation).
Contact: (541) 231-4126

Christopher Wade, 46

Residence/Family: Twenty-plus year resident of Linn County; lives in Sweet Home.
Education: Linn-Benton Community College (2009, associate’s degree, general studies), ITT Technical Institute (2015, associate’s degree, network systems administration); Oregon State University (currently pursuing B.S. in management).
Professional Background/Work Experience: Security project manager and business owner.
Political Experience/Affiliations: None.
Other Community Involvement/Affiliations: Civil Air Patrol volunteer for 32 years; involvement in numerous community organizations over the years.
Contact: wadeforlinncounty.com

The Questions

Why do you want to be a Linn County Commissioner?

Scott Bruslind: Linda and I met Will Tucker at a 4-H Awards ceremony at the Linn County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, way back when our older son just started showing swine.
Since then, I’ve been grateful for and proud of the way he comported himself in office: as an advocate for rural Linn County, and as a leader coordinating county interests with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state agencies. I was sorry to hear of his retirement, and I’d like to continue his good work.

Sherrie Sprenger: I have spent the last 13 years representing the needs of my friends and neighbors in Linn County to our state capitol. I’m ready to come home to work and focus on the county my family calls home. I have extensive contacts at the state and federal level and I want to use those to benefit Linn County residents.

Gary Sullivan: To be instrumental in improving the human condition for all people, not just the elite and special interest groups. Residential property tax is oppressive and unsustainable, we should change the way local government is financed and promote freehold property ownership.

Christopher Wade: I want to serve on the Linn County Board of Commissioners because we are in challenging times and I don’t see big government being a solution to the problem. I am running because I want to bring my abilities in teambuilding and leadership to help our county grow and thrive. I truly believe that we can do that together.

What are your top three priorities as a commissioner?

Christopher Wade: 1. The economy: 2020 has been a rough year for everyone. Between COVID-19 and the wildfires, we have taken an economic hit that we need to recover from. I want to work to cut the red tape to get our businesses open and growing, while still keeping our people safe. We can do that by working with business owners, non-profits, and regulators to come up with solutions, while still keeping our government small.
2. Growth: The economic hits of the last few years have driven many people to move to find better opportunities. Oregon is one of the fastest growing states in the nation and that growth is something we can tap into. I want to work to help our county grow, while still keeping the small-town community feel that we all love.
I believe that we can do that by working together to help small businesses start and thrive while keeping our communities someplace that people want to call home.
3. Youth: The youth of Linn County face serious challenges in education. Many of our youth struggle with finding direction. Unlike what has been pushed by big government, not all of our kids will go to college, so the question becomes, what do they do? This is where the community college and trade schools come in. We need to work to expand opportunities for the future of our youth.

Scott Bruslind: 1. County Workforce Development. Commissioners should strive for being a “best employer.” We are heading into strong economic headwinds. Budgets are going to be challenged, so we’ll need to keep motivation high by setting and achieving goals and acknowledging folks’ good work.
2. Rural residential zoning improvements. Permit one accessory dwelling unit (<900 ft2) up to 100 feet from the main house to be used as a rental. Farmers and ranchers could transition their operations to young farmers and their families, and when the time comes switch homes so they can ‘age in place’ and spend their late years on the place they love.
Public Safety and Health Services’ Mental Health coordination. The two largest budget lines in the county budget are public safety (174 FTE) and health services (206 FTE), where mental health is about 100 FTE. I’m proposing a professional-track mental health deputy team coordinated from the Sheriff’s Office, subject to Sheriff Yon’s approval. There’s a working model already in use in Texas.

Sherrie Sprenger: Six weeks ago I would have said COVID was the No. 1 issue. As we all know, part of Linn County has been ravaged by wildfires. As your current state representative and as your county commissioner, my No. 1 focus has been and will continue to be helping people rebuild. I do that by helping people navigate government red tape, access resources, and simply being available 24/7 to answer people’s questions.
Specifically, I have committed to 100 meetings in 100 days to anybody who wants to chat. I have always been very accessible to people and will certainly continue that tradition.
I want to see Linn County Commissioner meetings live streamed so people can be engaged in county government while working, or simply from the comfort of their own home. I have always worked for an accessible and unintimidating government process for people.
Linn County has done some things well for our local economy. When people have a few bucks in their pockets to go out for dinner or pay their kid’s sports fees, life feels better. Jobs are important. Not every good job requires a four-year degree. Linn County has some great industries here and we need to continue to foster an environment where industry wants to come here, stay here, and grow here.

Gary Sullivan: (1) Freehold homeowner property ownership rights.
(2) Reduced housing costs.
(3) Financial security for both citizens and local government.

What do you believe is your primary purpose of the county government and how would your role as a commissioner fit into that?

Gary Sullivan: The primary purpose of county government is to protect and serve, record ownership of land (etc.), maintain county roads, promote an environment in which people can enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I have a vision and a humanistic approach.

Christopher Wade: I believe that the primary purpose of county government is to fairly manage the services of the county. As a commissioner, I feel that I would be able to help keep the county government going in the right direction while not making it bigger. My focus would be on guiding the county to provide services efficiently while not increasing the budget.

Scott Bruslind: In territorial days, counties were charged with two tasks – building/maintaining roads from farms to market towns, and keeping the peace. Counties are now seen as the “last mile” delivery for social services, health care and quality of life issues, including recreation. Counties are also tasked with recording significant life events: birth, marriage, death, property ownership and taxes.
The commissioner’s role is two-fold: internally to provide leadership to department heads to achieve employee excellence; externally, advocate for the county with state and federal agencies and coordinate common interests with our neighboring counties.
My role here is to continue the model set by Mr. Tucker, to be present at community events and acknowledge county efforts to do the right thing. I would further the model by coordinating with neighboring counties on valley-wide economic initiatives and health care efficiencies.

Sherrie Sprenger: My primary focus, in any government role I have held, is to make sure people have access to their government in a way that makes sense and delivers decent customer service. More times than not, the best thing I can do is make sure government doesn’t get in the way of people doing what they want to do in a reasonable way.

Is the county headed in the right direction now? If so, what do you like? If not, what would you change?

Sherrie Sprenger: The county is generally doing well. I do want to see meetings more accessible to the public. That can be done through live streaming and also taking commissioner meetings on the road to various cities so everybody has easier access to participate.

Gary Sullivan: The two-party system has created conflict, fear, and distrust, and even hatred, among family members, friends, and neighbors. Local citizens and government have fallen into this paradigm. We would benefit by not being our own worst enemy. When divide-to-conquer strategy is used domestically it serves very few, therefore should be recognized for what it is and eliminated by raising the social consciousness/awareness.

Christopher Wade: I believe that we are generally heading in the right direction, but we can do better. The biggest change I see that we could do better at working together with all sides to improve our county, while not increasing the size of our government.

Scott Bruslind: Under Administrator Ralph Wyatt, Linn County routinely was awarded “Excellent” ratings for accounting and fiscal reporting and internal controls. Commissioners have the opportunity to achieve “excellent” ratings with regard to managing employees (about 700 of them at last count) and with the public. A Niche.com rating put Linn County at a C- for overall livability, so we have plenty of opportunity to improve.
One of the first things to do is to brag about our God-given natural resources and the great job Linn County Parks does in providing accessible, safe and fun place to recreate and to encourage folks, especially young people to get outside. One thing to change is the readiness to litigate grievances with the State of Oregon.
As commissioner, I’ll be more resolute working the chain of command of state representatives and senators to call in agency heads when issues arise, which they will.

The repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak will be lasting. What do you think of the county’s response thus far and would you have acted any differently if faced with the same circumstances? What does the county need to do now to deal with and recover from COVID?

Scott Bruslind: COVID-19 forced us to reconcile personal liberty and the public good. Early in the outbreak, commissioners were confronted with the deaths of our veteran heroes at the Oregon Veterans Home in Lebanon and we all mourned their loss.
To their credit, the commissioners have heeded the counsel of public health experts and the cluster testing of at-risk populations is a good call.
I was a libertarian proponent of letting people decide how to stay safe, given the early information on low mortality rates, and not impose restrictions until my wife pointed out the enormous burden to health care workers.
The piece of information I did not consider is the high infectivity of SARS-COV-2, and what is emerging is the efficacy of something as simple as wearing a mask. Washing our hands, we’ve known since kindergarten, but I’ve written that wearing a mask is a common courtesy to others, not a political act.
What do we need to do now? Look to places that have effectively controlled the rapid spread. South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand implemented robust testing and significant control through contact tracing when infections are discovered.
Things that I can bring to the table are familiarity with the testing protocol, so we could work with Todd Noble to bring testing in-house in Linn County Health Services; and I took an eight-hour online class to be a contact tracer though Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
It was offered free through a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation. I’d make that readily available to more people in Linn County so they understand the dynamics of the infection pattern and how to “flatten the curve.”

Sherrie Sprenger: The county has done a good job with a crisis response. Certainly, mistakes have been made and many people feel communication has been lacking but this is something none of us have experienced. Frankly, communication is almost always a complaint in situations that are constantly changing and a bit frightening.
A pandemic of this magnitude and the subsequent mandates from the governor have been something none of us have seen in our lives.
The challenge facing the county now is moving forward in a post pandemic economy. Without supporting our local businesses our economy will continue to deteriorate, costing people their jobs. We need to continue to protect people, while balancing every citizen’s right to live their lives as they wish.

Gary Sullivan: For me to pretend to know better than or judge those on the front line of this pandemic is fool’s play. We should be diligent in our efforts to eliminate the contagion. Most Oregonians have done very well, considering our previous lifestyles.

Christopher Wade: I don’t believe that the response to COVID was done correctly. I would have worked with business owners and the people to educate on the dangers and encourage effective scientific based responses. From here, I will work with business owners and non-profits to come up with a plan to get our county moving again while still keeping our people safe.

There’s a strong sense in rural Linn County that the state government isn’t very responsive to rural citizens’ needs or realities. Do you agree and, if so, how would you address that?

Christopher Wade: I would completely agree with that. I have seen many state mandates that are more focused on the metropolitan areas and that ignore rural areas. I am focused on working with our local communities and citizens to respond to our county’s needs. I will work with the state government to help ensure that Linn County’s realities are taken into account.

Scott Bruslind: Linn County Democratic candidates up and down the ballot have identified the urban-rural divide as a key issue to resolve in the coming years. We’ll do that by improving a “buy local first” habit in the cities and for promoting the “respect values” effort to bring back common civility.
County officials can be more ambitious participating in federal programs for broadband infrastructure investment, agricultural innovation projects and timber management studies. We have to make Linn County first in decision makers’ minds when it comes to pilot programs and economic development.
I’ve had my own problems with decision makers in Salem.
My issues with our Scout troop and the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs have been at the cultural level, where an agency decision was made without due process. That kind of behavior from individuals who have no public accountability has to change.

Sherrie Sprenger: I do agree. I have spent the last 13 years fighting that very sentiment from our more urban areas. I have chosen to use every opportunity I can to educate people that don’t understand our way of life in rural Oregon. I will continue to do that and rely on the strong relationships I have with many urban leaders.

Gary Sullivan: Yes, large city dwellers dominate over rural counties in ways that are oppressive to rural life. Home rule of counties should provide the ability to adjust or modify state demands.

Rural residents in Linn County have become painfully aware of the danger of forest fires. If you were elected county commissioner, what would you do to address this issue?

Gary Sullivan: The current commissioners have put a lot of thought into this subject for many years. I would start by supporting their efforts then research data before making a comment.

Christopher Wade: One of the challenges with forest fires has been the lack of real forest management. Proper forest management involves working with the timber companies, the department of forestry, and local groups to maintain the forests and come up with ways to mitigate the chances of major forest fires.

Scott Bruslind: Like with COVID-19, we are in an emerging issue that still does not have all the facts to be able to make decisions on how to change our practices. It could be that clear cutting with its environmental backlash has hampered the overall reduction of fuel loading. It could be climate change will make our seasons more like California. It could be that we’ll need to use the Australian aboriginal model of more fires, smaller and more often to keep catastrophe at bay.
We can certainly take individual actions to reduce fire exposure to our homes and outbuildings. I’m never giving up our asbestos-cement house siding, and may go to a metal roof next time.

Sherrie Sprenger: I have been fighting for responsible forest management for years in the legislature. I will continue to do that as your county commissioner. I agree with the county commissioners filing the lawsuit against the state for lack of forest management. More than any money the county may or may not receive from the state, the court has clearly said forests need to be managed for harvests in addition to recreation. This will be important, moving forward.

The Linn County Law Levy, which is up again on this year’s General Election ballot, has been increased multiple times over the past two decades in an effort to curb the effect of property tax compression caused by limits on property taxes, essentially diverting tax revenue from other jurisdictions with local option levies to the county. What do you think of this practice? Now that compression has fallen to historically low levels, do you think the county should cut its local option tax rate?

Sherrie Sprenger: Levies are not the best way to fund government. With compression we have seen a library district and a Sheriff’s levy competing for the same dollars. That just doesn’t make sense when, historically, prison bed estimates have been based on third grade reading levels.
The upside to the levy is it causes an even greater level of cooperation between citizens and the Sheriff’s Office. Compression originally came about because citizens felt overtaxed. I’m certain property taxes would be much higher without the current compression.

Gary Sullivan: We have fallen into a very bad cycle where law enforcement funding has increasingly come from levies to the point it is fully funded by a levy versus its normal funding from the general fund. I will vote no on this early request. I think it’s a bit sneaky, not as deceptive as the four-year levy of two years ago, but it’s like, “Hey, let’s ask for this money before voters get smart and change their minds.”
The county has a surge of money coming from increased property tax and the extra $283 per $100,000 assessed value in the current Law Enforcement Levy. If this early request is voted down, they can try it at the appropriate time in 2022, when if by good fortune, I have been elected or at least effective, full transparency and alternative methods of funding will be considered.

Christopher Wade: My understanding of tax compression is that when a proposed tax increase hits Measure 5’s limits, only the amounts under the limits are collected. What this means is that a local option levy may vote on a property tax increase of $7 per $1,000 of assessed value (for example) to fund police, but Measure 5 has a limit of $5 per $1,000, so only the $5 is collected. So, in this case there are actually less taxes collected than what gets budgeted for.
In my opinion this makes planning very difficult for local governments and for counties. It seems to me that there is a much less complex system that we can come up with to fund our essential services without increasing the size of the bureaucracy.

Scott Bruslind: The short answer to this question is elected officials have an obligation to explain how tax money is spent and why it is spent wisely. We tax ourselves for our common benefit and to invest in the future. If that money is poorly allocated, we ruin the reputation for good governance and don’t deserve the people’s trust. So, we have the opportunity to justify the current tax level to voters’ satisfaction, or we will cut it.

There are three candidates for this position. What most distinguishes you from the others? Why should voters choose you?

Scott Bruslind: I argue that I’m uniquely qualified:
Returned Peace Corps volunteer (Thailand 1984-87, Fisheries). I went to the University of Arizona and got a master’s degree in agricultural education to become an extension agent to focus on agricultural innovations.
Instead, to put my wife through school, I worked at Georgia-Pacific Resins, Inc. in Millersburg as a quality assurance chemist; and then Linda and I started Analysis Laboratory, a QA/QC lab for food and beverages, first started at OSU’s Food Science Department, and now operating from our property in Lacomb under a county conditional use-home occupation permit (CU-HO-4-00.)
Co-founder of Conversion Brewing Company, Lebanon. This is a success story that I’d like to replicate in the county.
We leveraged our business knowledge and credit line to partner with Matt Cowart and with the City of Lebanon to make a downtown, family-friendly destination pizzeria-brewpub. I think it’s worked out well for everyone and check with Mayor Paul Aziz to see if he concurs.
I recognize there are limitations to what government can and should do, but imagination and ambition should not be a part of those limitations.

Sherrie Sprenger: I’m not in this race to climb a political ladder. I am moving from a position of making state laws to governing a county. I’m done in Salem. I want to come home and spend my time right here in Linn County continuing to make a difference for my friends and neighbors.
Because of my time as your state representative, I have relationships and contacts all over this state and with state leaders. Whether we agree with decisions the state is making or not, it’s important to have someone advocating for us. During the fires in the Santiam Canyon, late at night I received a call from one of our local timber managers yelling at me to have PPL cut the power in a particular area.
Immediately, I was on the phone with the Speaker of the House who, in turn, connected me to executives with PPL to cut power. This county is my home and I want to work to keep this county a place our sons and daughters want to raise their families!

Gary Sullivan: I don’t know the other candidates; I believe that we all have good intentions from personal perspectives. I’m different than most people, but anyone can say that. My perspective comes from my life experience. I started out life as a waif.
Life changed for me when I read the Declaration of Independence in the eighth grade. Though it is a decree against the British Crown, it applies to our government as well. It’s a wonderful thing to comprehend. Understanding equality and human rights enlightened me.
After high school I enrolled in college. I was not ready to dedicate myself as a student, and quit after the first term. I worked and saved my earnings while living for the most part, in a panel truck which gave me freedom to travel.
I later upgraded to a Volks-wagen camper van, while saving enough money to buy a home, it was so much easier in those days. I became disillusioned about setting up a home and chose to further educate myself by traveling the world; I was 20 and on my own.
Four days after landing in Amsterdam, Netherlands I was (lost) in Hanau, Germany where I met a U.S. diplomat on special assignment. He gave me guidance which led to a small free empty slum flat (apartment) in Copenhagen.
I learned how to travel cheaply. I lived in more than 20 countries, ending in Toronto, Canada, four years later.
I learned the gold and silver bullion and Foreign Currency Exchange market in Toronto using bank loan leverage, and arbitrage.
Eight months later I moved to Oregon and bought my run-down house and farmland.
My experience and worldly knowledge make me a good candidate for county commissioner. Voters should choose me because I am prepared and focused on fixing the unsustainable property tax problem.

Christopher Wade: As a small government libertarian, I am committed to working to improve our communities through building partnerships and empowering our people to help each other without government mandates. We can come together as a county because it is what is best for us, not because a government tells us that we must.