By Ron Miller

This letter is based on firsthand knowledge and experience involving Commissioner Tony DeBone. With the election rapidly approaching, now is the season for debates and rhetoric about what one candidate or another is going to do if they get elected. We would like to take a different tack and bring to light what our current county commissioner, Tony DeBone, did with the time entrusted to him by Deschutes County residents in the last election. Specifically, we’d like to make voters aware of his track record to promote job growth and improving the economy — otherwise known as economic development.

During Tony’s tenure as commissioner, the county has seen a dramatic shift in its involvement and investment in economic development. For starters, it developed a new incentive fund to help employers creating new permanent, full-time positions. According to public records, that incentive, the Deschutes County Economic Development Fund, has helped 14 companies move or expand to create 823 new, well-paying jobs for our residents. It helped fill an empty facility left by T-Mobile with Consumer Cellular. It helped keep hundreds of jobs with Central Oregon Truck Company here in our region versus Nevada. It helped Agere Pharmaceuticals when they were a startup company and had limited access to growth capital. His leadership on this front, along with Commissioners Tammy Baney and Alan Unger, is a model that other counties in Oregon are considering replicating.

Tony also played a key role in how dedicated “economic development” funds at Deschutes County are allocated. In the past, the county made many small awards to dozens of organizations that amounted to Band-Aids — temporary fixes for more systemic problems. With his leadership and that of his commissioner colleagues and county management, Deschutes County now is much more targeted in its approach, directing more funding toward efforts that produce the largest and longest-lasting return on that investment (i.e., bettering the health of the region’s economy).

As part of that new approach to investing economic development funding, Deschutes County also helped launch new local economic development programs in La Pine and Sisters, while strengthening existing efforts in Bend and Redmond. Those programs are managed by EDCO (Economic Development for Central Oregon) with participation and oversight by local leaders — a regional/local model that is unique in Oregon and the western U.S. for how economic development services are deployed. Tony was at the center of the planning and development of these strategies both in his role as a commissioner as well as a member of the EDCO Board of Directors.

What Tony DeBone has done in his four-year tenure for economic development is nothing short of remarkable. He’s not the type of person to brag about his leadership role because he knows that it was part of a team effort. He was not the only decision-maker or participant who led to the positive changes and results, but you, the voting public, should know that he was a key driver. Real leadership, real public service, happens not with slick media sound bites, but in-the-trenches effort and teamwork. Tony has clearly demonstrated that he has what it takes to be a successful county commissioner through his leadership. He brings about positive change for the people he serves.

We strongly recommend Tony DeBone to the voters of our wonderful county!

— Ron Miller lives in Sunriver.