Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett will run for re-election.

Bennett, who was appointed in May to complete Carl Stiff's term, said he has filed papers with the Baker County Clerk.

Stiff resigned because of declining health.

Bennett, who's a Republican, will have at least one challenger in the May 20, 2014, primary election.

Bill Harvey, a county planning commissioner and area business owner, already has filed for the Republican nomination for the four-year term.

"While I care about good governance, I believe that the role of commissioner is less about governing and more about serving the community," Bennett wrote in a candidacy statement.

"I bring a broad area of expertise, education and experience to the role. I believe in making the best better," he also said.

An important way to do that is making sure the county is "fiscally managed well," he said.

That includes engagement with congressional representatives to keep Payment in Lieu of Taxes, PILT, and Secure Rural Schools payments coming to the county.

These federal programs help pay for many county functions and are meant to compensate for the major cutbacks in logging on federal land in the county over the past 20 years.

The county receives a share of revenue from the logging.

The federal government doesn't pay property taxes to the county, though.

Bennett had been a longtime county employee and worked as the director of emergency services and planning department when he was appointed to replace Stiff.

Bennett said he intends to work with other federal and state officials to ensure that Baker County residents are well served.

The county government "has a great team in place to continue to build a healthy and resilient county," he said.

Bennett wants to continue working to jump-start logging projects.

He said doing things to keep the mills viable in Union and Grant counties is important to Baker County because without those nearby operations "Baker County timber will be unmarketable."

And "education ties directly into job creation -- and having the next generation remain in Baker County," Bennett said.

He wants to see stronger emphasis on getting younger Baker County residents proper vocational and college-level educations so they'll remain here. Doing so would provide the community with a "trained, drug free workforce," he said.

Some of the other things Bennett intends to work on as a county commissioner are:

andbull; Continue representing Baker County on the Boardman to Hemingway power line project

andbull; Make an effort to provide rural communities access to the same level of health care as Baker City residents

andbull; Open access to federal lands

andbull; Prevent a federal listing of Eastern Oregon sage grouse as threatened or endangered

andbull; Ensure that Ash Grove Cement Co. in Durkee continues to operate profitably

andbull; Help keep miners working in the county.

"I love the county and its people," Bennett said. "I am thankful that I am allowed to serve."