County Commission candidates

Name: Patti Adair

Age: 67

Residence: Rural Deschutes County between Sisters and Redmond

Profession: Retired certified public accountant

Education: Bachelor’s in history from the University of Oregon

Name: James Cook

Age: 64

Residence: Redmond

Profession: Semiretired website designer/developer

Education: Bachelor’s in architecture from the ­University of Illinois

When Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney leaves office after 12 years next January, she’ll turn over her seat to one of two very different candidates: Patti Adair, the conservative Republican who chairs the Deschutes County Republican Party and served as a delegate for Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and James Cook, a moderate Democrat who chairs Redmond’s planning commission and has Baney’s endorsement.

The winner will take a full-time job on the Deschutes County Commission and earn $88,803 per year.

Patti Adair

Adair, 67, moved from California to rural Deschutes County in 2014 after growing up in Eastern Oregon and vacationing in Central Oregon every year. She quickly got involved in Republican Party politics and has chaired the Deschutes County Republican Party for the past two years.

During her tenure as chairwoman, the Republican Party has been criticized for inviting controversial speakers, including a former FBI agent who’s considered an anti-Muslim extremist by a national organization that tracks hate groups, and the head of the Oregon anti-­immigration group behind a ballot measure that would end the state’s sanctuary state law. Since defeating Baney in the May primary, Adair has struggled to find support from many of the Republican-­leaning groups and donors that typically dominate Central Oregon politics.

Critics, including Cook, characterize Adair as divisive. But she argues that her work with charity proves that she is not a divisive figure.

In her Bulletin interview, Adair wouldn’t say whether she supported additional regulations on marijuana growing operations because the current group of three commissioners will decide which, if any, additional regulations to approve. But at a debate a week earlier, she said many of the proposed regulations should be seriously considered.

“I’m not against recreational marijuana,” she said during the interview. “I just would like the rules to be enforced.”

She said the county’s crisis stabilization center “may be helpful” in keeping people out of jail, but it should be open from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. rather than during the day.

“If you read the police reports, the DUIs in the police reports, this person was arrested at 11:32 p.m. and this one at 2 a.m.,” she said. “If you actually study them, you can see where that seems to be a greater issuance of tickets.”

Adair said she disagreed with changing county commission seats to nonpartisan seats. Voters should be able to choose among Democrats, Republicans and third-party candidates, she said.

“If you look at judges, nonpartisan judges, and you study the voters’ pamphlet, there was only one Republican judge in the voters’ pamphlet that I received this May,” Adair said. “I just think it keeps it a little more interesting.”

She said she supports allowing accessory dwelling units in the rural county as a way to address the area’s housing shortage.

“I know so many people that are living in fifth-wheels, and if we can get them into a small house on a rural piece of property in an apartment, I do believe it’s a win-win,” she said.

James Cook

Cook, 64, is a website designer who got involved in local government after moving to Redmond eight years ago. He’s served on the city’s park commission, budget committee and planning commission, which he now chairs.

He said his experience with Redmond government has prepared him for the county commission. Redmond’s planning commission deals with land use issues and zoning; it works on rewriting city code and it requires working with a diverse group of opinions.

“It’s a smaller scale than the county, but it’s many of the same functions,” Cook said.

The county should continue enforcing its regulations around recreational marijuana growing operations and not try to pass any additional restrictions, Cook said. The Oregon Farm Bureau has threatened to sue Deschutes County over some of the proposed stricter regulations.

“We’re at a place where nobody has challenged what we have in place,” he said. “I think we’ve walked up to the edge. We haven’t gone over it, but we could if we’re not careful.”

The county can contribute to solving Central Oregon’s affordable housing crisis by working with cities and finding ways to reduce land costs, such as allowing some county-­owned land to be used as a land trust, he said. Allowing accessory dwelling units in the rural county can help, but it isn’t a solution in itself, he said.

“There’s a limited amount of those you’re going to be able to build, and the people who need affordable housing need to be near the services and the jobs that are in our cities,” he said.

Getting the county’s crisis stabilization center open 24 hours a day instead of the proposed eight is a priority, he said. It will be a good cost investment long term by diverting people with mental health or addiction issues from the county’s criminal justice system and keeping police officers from spending hours in emergency rooms with those people.

“If we open that building up for one shift a day, it’s not really addressing the need,” he said.

Cook supports nonpartisan county elections and plans to get a ballot measure in 2020 changing the county’s charter to allow for nonpartisan elections.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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