By Aaron West

The Bulletin

Candidates

Name: Craig Brookhart

Age: Declined to provide

Residence: Crook County

Education: Graduated from Portland Community College and the Oregon Institute of Technology

Government/civic experience: Secretary of the Crook County Republican Party; precinct committee person

Name: Seth Crawford

Age: 37

Residence: Crook County

Education: Graduated from the University of Oregon

Government/civic experience: Economic Development for Central Oregon; Prineville Planning Commission; Commission on Children and Families; Crook County Fair Board; Prineville Kiwanis; Small Farm Alliance; high school booster club; Chamber of Commerce; Eagles; Cattlemen’s Association; Oregon Hunters Association; Humane Society; Friends of the Library

Name: Ken Fahlgren

Age: 57

Residence: Prineville

Education: Graduated from Lane Community College

Government/civic experience: Vice chairman of the Association of Counties’ Veterans Services Committee; chairman of the Wellness and Education Board of Central Oregon; chairman of the Central Oregon Health Council; Crook County Budget Board; co-chairman of the Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative; former chairman of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council

The three candidates running for the position of Crook County judge have some overlap in their priorities, but it’s the distinct differences in their vision for the county’s future that could matter most to voters.

Two of the candidates — Seth Crawford and Ken Fahlgren — currently serve as commissioners on the Crook County Court, the equivalent of a county commission. But the similarities tend to end there.

The two commissioners have contradicting ideas regarding the role county government should play in the management of public lands, and both point to their techniques as the way forward.

A third candidate, Craig Brookhart, ran unsuccessfully in 2012 for county judge, the county’s top administrative position. His agenda, which emphasizes improved planning for the future to improve budgeting, as well as management of the county’s assets, draws from his past experience as an engineering manager at Intel.

The three candidates spoke with The Bulletin this week about their candidacies. The winner of the nonpartisan position serves a four-year term.

Craig Brookhart

Craig Brookhart points to his management experience when asked why voters should choose him. The knowledge and ideas he gained from his time working as a senior engineering manager at Intel set him apart from the other candidates and are needed in Crook County government, he said.

“As a manager at a Fortune 500 company, you need to be organized, strategic in your thinking, lay out clear plans and hold people accountable in their execution of those plans,” he said.

These are all things the current county government is missing, especially when it comes to long-term budgeting and management of the county’s assets, he said.

“We have a history of not looking very far down the road and not being able to lay out that strategic planning,” he said. “The way I view it is that planning sets the wheels in motion. Once you’ve laid out clear strategic plans, then you can look at your priorities and budget, and you can put money toward your priorities.”

Brookhart’s priorities in regard to county assets are the airport, the fairgrounds and natural resources. For instance, he wants to lay out a plan for the fairgrounds that would outline goals and the future of the facility.

“I want to see a five-, 10- and 20-year plan,” he said. “I want an artist rendering of where the fairgrounds is headed over time. What is our goal? I don’t want just another year and another series of events.”

As far as the airport goes, Brookhart wants to see that facility in the county’s hands.

“The county doesn’t manage the airport; it’s managed by the city,” he said. “That’s not something I want to see going forward; I want to see the county managing its own resources.”

Similarly, Brookhart wants more local control of the county’s natural resources. He’s the chairman of the Crook County Natural Resources PAC, a political action committee creating a plan to manage natural resources in the county. Such a plan is necessary, he said, if the county wants its voice heard.

“My take is that laying out the county’s plans and policies first is the starting point; then you can sit down and talk to the other people and entertain their desires,” he said. “But the county has to state their policies first.”

Seth Crawford

For Crawford, boosting employment in Crook County is a major priority and an issue that already occupies his time, even outside his role as a commissioner.

“I started ‘Made in Crook County’ a year ago, and we’re releasing a video every week,” Crawford said, referring to his online video series that profiles county manufacturers. He said the idea behind the series is to not only keep locals informed of businesses within the county, but also to “get the word out” about local economic activity to outside companies and people who live elsewhere.

Additionally, he said he’d like to cut down on permit costs that discourage new construction, as well as expedite the county’s building and planning-permit processes by cross-training employees in those departments.

Long-term budgeting is another priority in Crawford’s campaign and something he says the county doesn’t do.

“We currently don’t budget for the future, and that’s embarrassing,” he said, adding that he’s interested in hiring a budgeting expert to overhaul the county’s bookkeeping practices.

“We need to be looking five or 10 years in the future when we’re spending people’s tax dollars.”

Finally, Crawford’s take on the management of public lands is that the county needs to change its timid approach. He wants more local control over the Ochoco National Forest, and he pointed to his early opposition to Oregon Wild’s wilderness-designation proposal as the biggest accomplishment of his five-plus years as a commissioner, as well as an example of how he sets himself apart from the other commissioners.

“I was the first elected official to red tag the Oregon Wild proposal,” he said. “I called for a vote four times, and eventually the court agreed to write a letter. It’s an example of a lack of long-term planning, and I think how long it took the county to act on Oregon Wild shows that. We need to move forward as a county.”

Ken Fahlgren

Fahlgren, who’s been a commissioner on the Crook County Court for nearly eight years, said that for the most part he’s satisfied with where the county is headed, especially when it comes to the economy.

“I think we should continue on as we are today in some fashion,” Fahlgren said. “We’re in a very positive position at this point, and we have good projects coming in — projects I’ve worked on for more than three years.”

As an example, he pointed to the airport, where he said the plans for a helibase, where smokejumpers and firefighters could train, are almost complete and would see more than 20 jobs created. Also, the relationship the county has established with large tech centers like Facebook and Apple will prove even more successful in boosting employment and the economy.

“We’re in a good place to continue with the seeds we’ve planted with these large companies,” Fahlgren said.

One area he said needs to see some change is public safety, which would be his biggest priority as judge. The overcrowding of the jail is causing both crime and financial issues for the county, he said, and he’s interested in trying to move forward with plans that a citizens committee is working on.

“In (the committee’s) eyes, we should be building a new jail in the county or the city instead of continuing our partnership with Jefferson County,” Fahlgren said, referring to the practice of Crook County paying Jefferson County to house inmates. “The jail is my No. 1 issue.”

As far as the management of public lands and natural resources, Fahlgren has a completely different perspective than both Crawford and Brookhart. As a member of the Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative, Fahlgren thinks cooperation with other interest groups and government agencies is important if the county wants its voice heard.

“My goal is to continue the way we’re working,” he said, adding that he wants to see timber harvests increase. “We’re working with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. When you talk to some people, they feel it’s the county’s forest, and that’s just not true. We need to work together to help timber sales go forward.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,

awest@bendbulletin.com

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