Sherman County eNews #14

Editorial. The Appointment of a Sherman County Commissioner 

The Sherman County Republican Central Committee gave public notice of a vacancy for a Sherman County commissioner position and will meet on January 21st to interview and consider candidates for nomination. Pursuant to ORS 236.217, a slate of three to five qualified persons will be nominated for appointment by the Sherman County Court. Those interested in running for this position should contact Sherman County Republican Chair Chris Moore. 541-565-3516 or

Let’s think about the qualified, interested candidate!  

Are you the right person for the job?

Do you know what you’re getting into?

Could you be the one to make a difference?


Why do I want to become a county commissioner?

Check the answers that apply to you.

___ Concern over a particular issue

___ Opportunity to advance my career

___ Others are urging me to run

___ Use the skills that made me successful

___ Meet more people of influence

___ Achieve a level of prestige

___ Supplement my income

___ Stepping stone to higher office

___ Address problems facing the county

___ Desire to build a better future for my county

___ Provide a voice to constituents

___ Not satisfied with the current county government

___ Desire to make some needed changes

___ Gain a level of control in the community

___ Have prior experience in government.

We all benefit from informed, prepared and qualified candidates with an interest in contributing to the county community… for the right reasons. Yes, commissioners are compensated for their work, but it is not just a job. It’s a commitment to doing the best possible with the resources at hand to serve the most people in the county.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to become a county commissioner?” Discuss it with your family to give them an idea of the responsibilities involved. Decide whether you have the time to do a good job for the county.

To be ready for the challenges:

  • Have a vision for the county’s future
  • Keep an open mind
  • Maintain high ethical standards
  • Know the issues
  • Know your constituents and the people who will work with you
  • Focus on what is best for the county
  • Be honest with the public, the media, and other officials
  • Have confidence in your qualifications
  • Separate your emotions from your responsibilities.

Here’s the Oregon Revised Statute:

202.010 “County court” defined. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise, the term “county court” includes board of county commissioners.


 203.035 Power of county governing body or electors over matters of county concern.

(1) Subject to subsection (3) of this section, the governing body or the electors of a county may by ordinance exercise authority within the county over matters of county concern, to the fullest extent allowed by Constitutions and laws of the United States and of this state, as fully as if each particular power comprised in that general authority were specifically listed in ORS 203.030 to 203.075. [ for the Constitution of the State of Oregon]

(2) The power granted by this section is in addition to other grants of power to counties, shall not be construed to limit or qualify any such grant and shall be liberally construed, to the end that counties have all powers over matters of county concern that it is possible for them to have under the Constitutions and laws of the United States and of this state.

203.111 County governing body; legislative authority; quorum. Unless otherwise provided by county charter, a county court shall be the governing body and shall exercise general legislative authority over all matters of county concern and shall consist of the county judge and two county commissioners and a majority of those persons shall constitute a quorum. [1981 c.140 s.3 (enacted in lieu of 203.110)]

203.240 Organization, powers and duties of board.

(1) A board of county commissioners shall:
(a) Have the powers and duties and be otherwise subject to the laws applicable to county courts sitting for the transaction of county business.
(b) Unless provided otherwise by county charter or ordinance, consist of three county commissioners. A majority of the board is required to transact county business.

204.010 Terms of office of county officers. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, the term of office of each officer mentioned in ORS 204.005 is four years.

204.020 When terms of office commence; filing certificate of election, oath and undertaking. (1) The term of office of each officer mentioned in ORS 204.005 shall commence on the first Monday of January next following election to office.

204.601 Number and appointment of deputies and other employees.

(1) The county court or board of county commissioners of each county shall fix the number of deputies and employees of county officers whose compensation is to be paid from county funds.
(2) All such deputies and employees shall be appointed by such county officer, and shall hold office during the pleasure of the appointing officer. [1953 c.306 s.9]

Let’s take a look at Sherman County’s government website.

Here is information about commissioners:

“Sherman County’s Board of Commissioners is made up of two elected Commissioners and the Sherman County Court Judge. Commissioners are elected to four-year terms. The County Judge serves a six-year term.

“In addition to its semi-weekly County Court meetings, the Board of Commissioners also performs as the Biggs Service District Board of Directors and serves on a variety of other local and regional boards and committees. See “Board/Committee Assignments” for the full list of Commissioner assignments.”

Let’s think about Regional Coalitions. 

Regional coalitions, formed by contracts between two or more counties or counties and the state, centralize and economize the receiving and administering of state- and federally-funded programs that are shared between the counties — including Sherman County. Commissioners at these meetings determine policy, direction, program priorities and outcomes. County commissioners exercise leadership and opinions on behalf of Sherman County citizens and their interests. In some cases, this representation involves legislative action, visits to legislators and editors of major newspapers, prioritizing regional interests and making sure that Sherman County receives its share of services. Regional and statewide views are important to all of us — the bigger picture that affects us in a multitude of ways.

Our Commissioners and County Judge influence policies, budgets, personnel and programs of REGIONAL boards that provide services to Sherman County, including these:

  • Association of Oregon Counties
  • Community Renewable Energy Association
  • Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance
  • Frontier Regional 9-1-1 Dispatch Agency
  • Frontier TeleNet
  • Lower John Day Regional Partnership
  • Lower John Day Area Commission on Transportation
  • Mid-Columbia Community Action Council
  • Mid-Columbia Economic Development District
  • North Central Public Health District
  • Northern Oregon Regional Corrections / NORCOR (regional jail) 
  • Tri-County Communications
  • Tri-County Community Corrections
  • Tri-County Mental Health – Center for Living
  • Northern Oregon Regional Corrections / NORCOR (regional jail) 

… in addition to some LOCAL boards:

  • Biggs Service District
  • Early Learning Hub, liaison
  • Local Public Safety Coordinating Council
  • Sherman County Ambulance Service Plan Advisory Committee, liaison
  • Sherman County Board of Property Appeals
  • Sherman County Budget Committee
  • Sherman County Community Advisory Committee
  • Sherman County Fair Board
  • Sherman County Prevention Coalition
  • Sherman County Public/School Library Board
  • Sherman County Road Department Advisory Board, liaison
  • Sherman County School District, liaison
  • Sherman County Senior & Community Center Advisory Committee
  • Sherman County Soil & Water Conservation District, liaison
  • Sherman County Wasteshed, representative
  • Sherman County Watershed Coalition, representative
  • Sherman County Weed District Advisory Board

Then … County College, The Association of Oregon Counties & OSU

The Association of Oregon Counties: “The County College program began in 2006 in partnership with the Oregon State University Extension Service, and for four years, ran every year. Since the 2009 class, it has run every other year in odd years.

“Designed primarily for new commissioners and high-level staff, the program offers a comprehensive overview of the responsibilities and authorities of a county, and a county commissioner or judge, including legal, government ethics, public meetings and records, parliamentary procedure and much more. The class also covers the primary service areas of community & economic development, finance, human services, infrastructure & public works and public safety, in addition to sessions on leadership and management (risk management, communications, emergency management, personal and courthouse security, etc.). The strong partnership between counties and the Oregon State University Extension Service is also explored. With a class size of between 20 to 30 members, one of the most valuable benefits is the networking that takes place and the relationships that are built.”

See dates for County College classes here:

Last, but not least, the National Association of Counties (NACo).

A Research Brief by Research Director, Jacqueline J. Byers, November 2008, offers helpful information, excerpted here: 

“What do County Commissioners do all Day?

“County governments were originally created as administrative divisions of the states. Each state government in the country has designed, through its constitution and statutes, the authorities and powers that counties may exercise…

“Traditional state mandated services performed by counties include:

– General governmental administration

– Recording of deeds

– Property tax assessment and collection

– Law enforcement and corrections

– Judicial administration

– Poor relief (public welfare)

– Road, bridge and airport maintenance

– Recreation and parks…

“… Increasing population growth, and rising property taxes as a source of revenue, fueled county expansion into new formerly urban service delivery areas, such as:

  • Planning
  • Zoning
  • Solid Waste Collection
  • Mass transit
  • Communications
  • Parking
  • Sanitation
  • Transportation
  • Utilities (including water, electricity, cable television and gas) …

“How are counties managed? The governing officials in each county are elected either by district or at large by popular vote of the citizens…

“What does it take to be a county commissioner? In most states, the law requires that the candidate must have resided in the county for a set period of time, usually at least 12 months, and be at least 21 years of age. Another requirement in many states is that the individual has not been convicted of any crimes…

“What kind of experience is best for a county commissioner? County commissioners come from all walks of life. They can be teachers, nurses, lawyers, doctors, business people, farmers and homemakers. Recently, candidates have become younger and younger, including college students. There is no best experience for elected office, but any experience that may have provided knowledge about finance, budgeting, communications, law and personnel is beneficial…

“How does a county commissioner learn to do the job? Many states now make training available to newly elected officials. Many state universities have governmental training institutes that officials can attend. Some states require newly elected officials to attend training for a required period; others offer certification for training completion. If the state does not require or provide training, it can be obtained through national organizations, such as NACo, which sponsors “Newly Elected Official Training Institutes” at two of its national conferences, or from many state associations of counties, which often conduct “Training Sessions for Newly Elected Officials.”  [See Association of Oregon Counties]

“What does a county commissioner do all day? For most county commissioners, the position is a part time job… But the reality is that as an elected official you are on duty and on call for 24 hours a day. The most important thing that a commissioner does is stay in touch with constituents. Daily, a commissioner speaks with citizens about what they want…

“To effectively carry out the role of commissioner requires making decisions. To make good decisions, a commissioner needs good information. Gathering the necessary data and statistics requires time by the commissioner or staff. Meetings are a major part of every commissioner’s role. Regularly scheduled commission meetings, special sessions, and public hearings are a part of the job. Attending community functions such as neighborhood meetings, business openings, school activities, strawberry socials and club meetings is also required. Conducting meetings with citizens, as a means of informing them about issues, is another activity. A state-of-the-district meeting is conducted periodically by many commissioners. Establishing a working relationship with the media takes time and trust on both sides…

“Last, but not least, working closely with other members of the county commission to build coalitions… Building teams and creating support with fellow commissioners is how any elected official gets the job done. A majority is needed in every vote. Many counties have … officers that are responsible for other aspects of county government administration. These officers vary from state to state, but can include the sheriff, the coroner, the probate judge, clerk of court, auditor or treasurer, judges, tax collector or assessor and the recorder. Establishing a good working relationship with them and appreciating the responsibilities of each of these elected officials can make the job easier since in most instances the county commission must provide the funds for each of these offices…

“What issues are currently facing commissioners? Routinely, commissioners are faced with the task of raising sufficient revenue to run the government and provide the services expected by their constituents. Taxes and fees are the most common way that governments raise revenue and increases are not generally popular with citizens. An effective commissioner educates citizens about the need for increases to continue service delivery as they expect and to maintain the quality of life in the county. Mandates … from other levels of government are an ongoing concern for elected officials…

“Why do people want to be a commissioner anyway? Generally, what spurs people to become involved in local politics is a specific issue. Once they have become involved and learned how to work in the local political process they often discover that they have something to offer the community, and are interested in its future.

“An effective county commissioner can leave a legacy of good works and make an impact on people’s lives. It is the closest level of government to the people and one that provides the greatest challenge and creates leaders for the future.”