Most, but not all of the current crop of commissioner candidates particularly those who filed early filed to run for the office of a paid commissioner with liaison assignments and oversight of specific departments. Later applicants, namely Messerle, Sweet, Bishop and Cribbens appear to be running for an entirely different job that does not exist in Coos County, an unpaid, part time, volunteer position. The question then becomes which job description do the voters think they are filling? It might be argued that a vote for the candidates named above indicates the public are filling a volunteer position but it probably isn’t that clear to the voters, especially when the current commission appears to be headed toward making governance changes and hiring an administrator with nothing more than a two to one vote without a public education campaign.
County counsel has assured some people that big changes like hiring an administrator and going to an all volunteer commission is well within the scope of authority of the sitting board of commissioners but then the system can just as easily be undone on January 2, 2013 by a new commission so I wouldn’t expect to see a change like that before the May primary results. Even if the primary and then the general plays out the way some special interests are hoping it would be hard to envision a competent, professional and qualified and preferably young public administrator making a major career change with such a volatile new board where two thirds of it must run again in two years even with a plush severance package because it wouldn’t look good on a resume. It has been speculated that several members of the governance committee are eying the job of an administrator if it becomes available who might take the plunge but they are all at the end of their careers anyway.
Again, what job do the voters believe they are filling when they mark their ballots? How angry will the electorate be if and when their chosen official abdicates his or her authority and turns into a part timer? Will the two year incumbents ever get a second term?
When it was obvious Nikki Whitty was dying the vultures started circling immediately and Bob Main played right into it with his appointment of Fred Messerle. Jon Barton floated an email last year urging “alacrity” to usher in these big changes while they could but I am not sure their strategy is well thought out and indicates an acute case of not really knowing what the voters want or expect. Even if they succeed in the near term in changing county governance it is doomed to failure because of the short terms of two thirds of the board and because the public and the staff aren’t backing the plan. More chaos and disarray.
The chamber, SCDC and the Coos County Alliance for Progress have done one positive thing, potentially positive anyway. They have provided the voters with a golden opportunity to show that candidates who accept money from profit driven special interest groups will not be elected in Coos County and that campaign contributions do not make up for a lack of substance or character.
Spread the word.