Former SH councilman, running for return to commission seat

Update (2 p.m. – April 25, 2018):
Larry Johnson is no longer running for the position of county commissioner, he said in an email to The New Era.


Larry Johnson, 67, is looking to regain the  seat on the Linn County Board of Commissioners that he’s held twice before.

Johnson served one four-year-term in the 1980s, left for one term, and was on the board again at the end of the 1990s.

Now an Albany resident, he also was a Sweet Home City Councilor for one term.

“I decided to not go back for a number of reasons,” Johnson said of his council service.

Since Johnson’s last term as county commissioner, a week hasn’t gone by when someone hasn’t asked him to run again, he said.

He also decided to run because his wife, Bessie Johnson, is seeking another term as Albany city councilor.

“She decided to run again, so I thought I would run too, against (County Commissioner John) Lindsey,” Johnson said.

“I wasn’t going to give him a free run. There wasn’t anybody else running against him.”

Johnson said he does not see a conflict with his wife being on the council of a city within Linn County.

“There is such a huge difference between being on the council and being a commissioner,” he said. “It makes for interesting discussions.”

Johnson said most people don’t understand basic civics.

He used to teach civics lessons in outlying communities in Linn County, he said.

One thing he can bring to the Board of Commissioners is management skills, he said.

“I ran a business for almost 40 years,” Johnson said, noting that a lot of things can happen.

Johnson retired 15 months ago from his construction business, Hubby for Hire, but he can still be seen around town helping people with repairs.

People have brought up different Board of Commissioners actions to him, he said.

“Borrowing from the road fund just bothers me to no end,” Johnson said. “Those are dedicated funds. They do it legally, but it’s questionable.”

Johnson supports the law enforcement levy, which provides a portion of the funding for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a poor way of doing business but it’s a necessary way of doing business ever since the ballot measure passed years ago capped the way governments can raise money,” Johnson said. “My preference would be that the governments would be allowed to set an adequate tax base, a reasonable tax base and operate within that.”

He said it is unfortunate but it’s the way that the laws are written.

“What needs to be done is an overhaul of our existing tax system,” Johnson said. “That is one thing that nobody wants to touch.”

Johnson said he enjoyed being a commissioner as well as the other work he’s done throughout his life, including farming, the timber industry and rare metals industry.

He was born in Lebanon, in “the old library,” when it was a hospital.

Johnson said he has turned down jobs all over the world in different trades; he wanted to stay in Oregon.

“I don’t like living out of a suitcase and I don’t like to be on a cellphone all the time,” Johnson said. “You can’t snuggle up to money. It’s better being at home.”

Johnson said he doesn’t believe Linn County has a housing shortage problem.

“There’s a ton of housing being built,” Johnson said. “I don’t think that there’s a community in Linn County that doesn’t havehousing going on. An old friend of mine called up two weeks ago and he’s building 14 homes in Sodaville. The private sector is going to drive it.”

He doesn’t want to see the public get stuck with property that they have to sell at a lower rate if there is a financial crash.

“We got stuck with a whole lot of properties when I was on the board,” Johnson said. “We ended up having to sell for pennies on the dollar and that wasn’t a good thing because the taxpayer ended up footing the bill.”

In terms of making it more affordable for builders to build, “the county doesn’t get in system development charges,” he said.

The city charges more for system development charges, he said.

“I don’t support system development charges, by and large,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of things built in those charges that I don’t support.”

Johnson said he is “pretty pro-government” but there are things built in to system charges that he doesn’t support.

“They want you to pay for future roads that they want to develop in the future? No, I don’t think so,” Johnson said. “Libraries, I support libraries, I support libraries, I’m an avid reader, but you pay additional costs for a future library that may or may not be built? I don’t think that’s right.”

He also thinks hospitals are best “done” by the private sector.

As for regulations that affect development, specifically of marijuana grows, Johnson said he has to follow the law regardless of what he thinks.

“I am obligated to follow the law,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we have politicians who don’t follow the letter of the law…you don’t have the privilege of making your own determination. There’s a number of things I don’t like, but I’m obligated to follow the law. That’s what you sign up for.”

Johnson does agree with two lawsuits Linn County has filed against the state.

In March of 2016, the Linn County Commissioners filed a $1.4 billion class action lawsuit against the State of Oregon and the State Forestry Department for failure to properly manage forest policy and promote timber harvests on forest trust land.

“I agree with what the county is attempting to acco mplish with the timber law suit,” Johnson said. “It would force the state to adhere to the legal obligation they agreed to years ago. The funding is essential for public safety, health and basic services our local citizens need.”

In November of 2016, Linn County filed a claim with eight other counties against state-mandated paid sick leave because the state did not provide “adequate reimbursement.”

“The paid sick leave passed by the 2015 legislature is an unfunded mandate,” Johnson said. “I believe if the state passes a new program, they need to put the dollars with it.”