Baker City Mayor Loran Joseph is running for a part-time job as county commissioner just as his leadership role with the city is ending.
Joseph, 39, turned in signatures Tuesday to qualify as a candidate to stand against incumbent commissioner Bruce Nichols in the May 19 election.
Nichols, 68, filed on Nov. 11 for a second four-year term in the quarter-time Position 1 Commission seat. He ran against Bill Harvey for the full-time commission chair position in 2018 and lost that election.
Nichols, a certified public accountant, earns $17,712 per year in the one-fourth time position. He was elected in 2016.
Joseph said he decided last Thursday to throw his hat in the ring for the commission position after considering it for some time and then talking to people who gave him their support.
Joseph said through the organizational efforts of his wife, Jenny Mowe, who recruited people to help gather signatures, he was able to collect the 83 needed to qualify for the ballot ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
Joseph actually collected 107 signatures, 98 of which were approved by the County Clerk’s office prior to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
Joseph said he could have paid the $50 filing fee to ensure that his name was on the ballot for the May 19 election, but he preferred collecting signatures.
“I thought it was important to interact with people and to let them know who I am,” he said.
Joseph’s current four-year term on the Baker City Council expires Dec. 31, 2020, and he will be term-limited out because he was appointed on July 26, 2016, to serve an unexpired term of Sandy Lewis, who resigned. The partial term and the four-year term that expires this year constitute the two-year councilor term limit.
Joseph said it was his “disappointment with the lack of progress from the county commissioners” that led him to seek to extend his political career in the community.
He believes his constituents will benefit from “the energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail that I think I can bring.”
As a member of the City Council for the past 4½ years and Baker City’s mayor for the past year, Joseph said he understands the importance of refreshing his memory by reviewing the City Charter and development codes before voting on related matters during Council meetings.
Joseph said he believes recent actions of the County Commission indicate the current commissioners are not doing their homework to prepare for the twice monthly commission meetings.
Joseph and his wife own Sweet Wife Baking at 2080 Resort St., and will be moving to the former Stockman’s bar location at 2028 Main St.
Joseph said the couple hope to have the business moved by this summer and he will rely on his wife and the “fantastic staff” to continue operating the bakery.
He also is employed half-time by his father, Randy Joseph, at Lime Wind Energy where he and his brother, Wade, maintain the company’s six wind turbines near Huntington.
Nichols said Wednesday that he was surprised to hear of Joseph’s last-minute entry into the race.
“I didn’t expect it coming,” Nichols said. “I welcome him and we will go from there.”
Nichols said he would have preferred that Joseph had waited until the next election cycle in 2024 to seek a commission seat.
While Nichols complimented Joseph on the work he has done on the City Council, Nichols believes he is the better commission candidate.
“I thought I was doing a pretty fine job as a county commissioner,” Nichols said. “I will make a better commissioner because of my experience.”
Should one candidate receive 50%, plus one, of the total votes in May, that person would be elected, said County Clerk Stephanie Kirby. However, if neither wins the majority vote in May, both would advance to the Nov. 3 general election where the top vote-getter would be elected, she said.
Three incumbent Baker County officials are running unopposed for four-year terms in their positions: Surveyor Tom Hanley, Sheriff Travis Ash and Assessor Kerry Savage.
Gregory M. Baxter has filed with the Secretary of State’s office as a candidate for the position of Baker County District Attorney. Matt Shirtcliff has filed as a candidate for 8th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge for Baker County. Both were appointed to the positions last year by Gov. Kate Brown.
Shirtcliff replaced retiring Greg Baxter on the bench and Judge Baxter’s son replaced Shirtcliff in the District Attorney’s Office.
Three local option tax levies will be considered by patrons of special districts and Baker School District voters will be asked to approve a bond measure to fund school improvements.
The $7.5 million school bond measure, if approved, would be used to fund school safety and security, and address overcrowding in elementary schools while making better use of available space at Baker High School. Existing buildings also would be remodeled as part of the project.
The bond measure, which will be boosted by a $4 million state grant if approved, will be repaid within 10 years. Taxpayers in the District will pay 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to support the school improvements.
Baker County is seeking renewal of a four-year local option tax to fund general operations of vector control to eradicate mosquitoes within the district.
If approved, a total of $560,000 would be levied over four years in equal amounts of $140,000 per year beginning with the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The tax rate to fund the levy is about 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The county also is seeking the four-year renewal of a $400,000 weed control levy ($100,000 per year) at a tax rate of about 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Residents of the voter precincts in Pine Valley, which includes Halfway, and Irondyke, which includes Oxbow, will be asked to renew a local option tax for Pine Eagle Health District. The levy would raise $735,200 over five years to ensure that a medical provider would be available to treat patients at the Pine Eagle Clinic in Halfway. Property owners in the District will pay 85 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise revenue to support clinic operations from fiscal year 2020-21 through 2024-25.