NAME: Ed Barbeau
EDUCATION: No college degree
NAME: Tony DeBone
RESIDENCE: Rural southern Deschutes County
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in electronic tech and robotics from Northern Michigan University
The Republican primary for one Deschutes County Commission seat pits two-term commissioner and board chairman Tony DeBone, running on his experience, against pizza shop owner Ed Barbeau, who’s making the county’s police radio problems a key part of his campaign.
The winner of the May 15 primary will face Bend resident Amy Lowes, a Democrat, in November. Lowes, who is uncontested, worked as a nurse and owned a business in Tumalo.
Deschutes County Commission positions are considered full-time jobs and commissioners earn $88,803 per year.
Barbeau, 60, has no government experience, but he’s run before for the Bend City Council and the Deschutes County Commission. He owns Pisano’s Woodfired Pizza in Tumalo and previously worked as a private investigator.
He said he initially decided to run because he thought the county needed a commissioner with business experience who could cheerlead for local businesses and encourage dynamic businesses in outdoor, recreational and high-tech fields to move to Central Oregon. He said business owners who are excited about the area can supplement the work done by Economic Development for Central Oregon, and the county bringing in nationally known sporting events like Iron Man and the XTERRA games will help as well.
“The goal would be to get other businesses to want to move to Central Oregon and create an environment where my grandkids could go to our four-year university and not have to leave to get a good job,” Barbeau said.
On a policy level, Barbeau said streamlining building processes and reducing system development charges (fees charged to new construction to cover the costs its users will have on county infrastructure) will help both businesses and workforce housing develop.
He said he wants to bring more transparency to county government, something he noticed as a problem with how the county is handling information about a faulty new police radio system. Barbeau said he’s only received about one-third of the information he asked for in public records requests to the county and the state about the new system.
“The citizens of Deschutes County purchased this system,” he said. “It’s not working around the country, in over 50 cities and municipalities, and yet I can’t even find out how the current commissioners scorecarded the purchase of the Harris system. This is a major public safety issue.”
Barbeau said he considers marijuana, perennially a hot topic in Deschutes County, a settled issue, but he criticized how DeBone and fellow commissioners Tammy Baney and Alan Unger handled the rollout of marijuana policy in the county several years ago. The county temporarily opted out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses while it developed restrictions, which Barbeau said failed both cannabis businesses and residents concerned about livability.
Barbeau said he’s invested in maintaining Cascades East Transit, which provides bus service in the county, in large part because of a man he knows who uses a wheelchair and the buses to get to his job at a movie theater in Bend.
“Even though it costs the citizens a lot, and we don’t seem to have a lot of riders, the ones that do use it need it, and that’s acceptable to me because of guys like Jeremy,” he said.
DeBone, 51, was elected to the County Commission in 2010. He said he’s proud of how the county’s grown and changed during his time on the commission while keeping costs low.
“I’m proud of all the work I’ve done as a Deschutes County commissioner, the culture of the organization, the fiscal responsibility, the services to all the citizens,” he said.
Before his election to the commission in 2010, DeBone served for six years on the La Pine Park & Recreation District board. It was when he became chairman of the park board that he discovered his “calm and confident” leadership style, he said.
DeBone said he’s most proud of how Deschutes County has grown back into itself following the recession and has worked to diversify its economy. The recession had a major impact on tourism and construction, two large industries in Deschutes County, but the county now has more biotechnology, manufacturing, outdoor industry and specialty food businesses, he said.
Oregon State University-Cascades, which DeBone said he’s been a big supporter of, is a boon to the county because universities are countercyclical to recessions, he said.
Marijuana is the “topic of the day” in the county, he said, and commissioners continue to refine their approach to it. This week, commissioners began considering a pause on accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses.
DeBone said he’s proud of how he’s handled marijuana-related issues. The county was able to preserve reasonable restrictions on marijuana grows and require new applicants to go through a land-use application process, things it would not have been able to do if it chose to opt out and the public voted to opt in, he said.
“I’m real confident in the choices that I’ve made personally,” he said. “We’ve had many public hearings on this. We’ve heard from a lot of citizens, and we’ll continue to.”
DeBone said he has developed relationships with state lawmakers that give him the experience necessary to advocate for county needs like a new judge and an expanded justice building. He also can work with the state on addressing land-use law that might make sense in Portland or Salem but not in Deschutes County, he said.
“State land use needs to be discussed,” he said. “I don’t have the answer, but we need to take a good hard look at the whole system.”
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