Ahern, Paye vie for Jefferson County Commission

Incumbent faces challenger in May election

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Jefferson County voters have the choice between a three-term incumbent and a longtime county worker for one of two county Board of Commissioner posts on the upcoming May ballot.

Mike Ahern, 57, faces Floyd Paye, 50, who has worked for the county Public Works Department since 1983. While the race is nonpartisan, voters will have their pick of the political parties. Ahern is a Democrat and Paye is a Republican.

Ahern said he’s running again to continue his efforts to improve public safety and health care in Jefferson County.

“The main reason is to keep the good things going,” he said.

Paye, who was a member of the Metolius City Council from 1999 to 2001, said he’s running to offer voters a switch in the current county leadership.

“I really think we need a change,” he said. “I think we need a voice for the people.”

Jefferson County is still recovering from the economic downturn that made finding jobs even more difficult in the rural county.

Ahern said he wants to address the jobs issue by finding ways to promote higher education.

“We are one of the least-educated counties in the state,” he said.

Paye said he’d work to bring new businesses to the county and be open-minded about the possibilities.

“A job is a job,” he said.

Paye is serving his second term as recording secretary for Laborers Local 121 and has been on the Bierly Acres Water Board since 2003. He lives in Bierly Acres, a subdivision near Madras with nearly 50 water users.

Both candidates have been in Jefferson County for decades, and both graduated from Madras High School — Ahern in 1974 and Paye in 1982. Ahern, who played football in high school before discovering cross country his last year, went to the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in political science in 1979. He is now a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Dick Dodson Realty in Madras. Before that, Ahern owned Ahern’s Grocery and Deli. The market in north Madras is still open but has different owners.

Paye went to Portland State University for a year, where he played football as an offensive tackle, before returning home and taking a job with the county. He started as a laborer and truck driver and is now in charge of the county’s weed abatement program. His title is weed lead.

Voters elected Ahern to the Jefferson County Commission in 1998, 2006 and 2010. He lost the 2002 election by fewer than 100 votes to Mary Zemke, a Republican who served one term and didn’t run again. In 2008 he ran for the state House in District 59 and lost to John Huffman, R-The Dalles.

Along with his work for the county, Paye runs a private weed-spraying business called Payes 2 Spray. He also has been a wrestling referee for 28 years. Doing so, he has had to make quick decisions about what he sees on the mat and deal with angry coaches and parents.

“It has helped in life itself,” he said, “making those decisions.”

The nonpartisan vote is May 20. Ahern and Paye are vying for county commissioner position No. 2. The winner of the May election will serve a four-year team, starting on Jan 1, 2015.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com